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Shell Foundation, a UK-based organisation funded by petroleum major Shell, has made a further investment in rural electrification company Husk Power Systems (HPS). The funds will be used by Husk to further scale up its operations, which involves a biomass gasification technology that converts rice husks into electricity. The amount invested has not been disclosed.

The funds will help Husk deliver more power plants, increase the operational and technical capacity of the company and develop the Husk Power Systems brand in India and the US, it said in a release.  

The firm recently received a $250,000-investment from DFJ and Cisco as part of Global Business Plan Competition for university and business school students. Shell Foundation has earlier invested in Husk in November 2008. Its founders are University of Virginia, Darden School of Business 2009 graduates Chip Ransler and Manoj Sinha.

Husk's business model involves operation small power plants which deliver electricity as a pay-for-use service in villages. The firm also owns these plants, which are about 35-100 kW in their electricity generation. These plants become profitable within six month of

operations. Husk has started its operations in Bihar and managed to reach 50 villages. It plans to expand its reach to 100 villages in 2009, 400 in 2010, and 2000 in 2012.

Rice husks, which are usually thrown away, upon heating releases gas which Husk's plants uses to run modified diesel engines to generate electricity. The waste product of the process is high in silica and can be sold to concrete manufacturers.

“Today, more than 40% of the Indian population, or approximately 1,25,000 villages, have no access to reliable electricity. Existing energy options in rural communities such as diesel generator sets and kerosene lanterns are polluting, prohibitively expensive, and logistically difficult to disseminate. Those villages which do have access to electricity are often subject to frequent power cuts and shortages in power supply," said Simon Desjardins, Analyst, Shell Foundation.

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