Windmills may no longer be restricted to large open fields with unrestricted airflow.
Bhupesh Sharma’s venture is shrinking the bulky motors and bringing windmills to the rooftops and open spaces of residential and office buildings, to provide electricity directly to users.
Sharma’s two-year-old startup, Breson, designs and manufactures customized small wind turbines and pumps.
Winds of change: A 5,000W turbine installed on the rooftop of a 15-storey building can power all passage lights for 12 hours every day.
“Wind direction is not a constraint as these turbines can use it from any direction,” said Sharma, a 22-year-old electrical and telecom engineer from Mumbai University. He is now studying business design from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research in Bangalore.
Sharma founded Breson along with Uday Nair, a chartered accountant, and Vikal Chaurasia, an engineer. It was one of the top five judges’ choices at this year’s Tata First Dot student start-up awards.
The start-up’s business model of creating power generation products that can tap naturally available wind makes it an important initiative particularly in the context of an energy-starved nation like India.
The electricity sector in India had an installed capacity of 185.5GW as of November, according to a report of the Central Electricity Authority, part of the ministry of power. At least one-third of India’s rural population and 6% of the urban population lacks electricity, according to a report of the International Energy Agency.
Using clean technology such as windmills for powering residences, schools, hotels, temples and farms can go a long way in beefing up the nation’s effort to provide energy as well as in combating climate change.
Sharma said the turbines his firm makes can be a long-term, cost-effective solution for generating renewable energy in the cities at economical rates. The turbines can also be used for rural electrification as well as for improving irrigation systems, he said.
Breson develops windmills of 800W, 1,000W and 5,000W capacity, customized to wind speeds. A 5,000W turbine installed in a 15-floor building can power all passage lights every day for 12 hours.
The technology is cheaper than that of solar energy. Breson turbines cost Rs1.5-3 lakh, whereas solar panels of 5,000W capacity would cost about Rs16 lakh, according to Sharma.
Counting other small-scale power production sources such as solar power, waste power generation units and small hydropower plants as competitors, Sharma said Breson’s edge lies in being more economical than the other technologies and in the customization of products.
“Solar is very costly and the efficiency is only for 4 hours when the sun is at its strongest—between 10am to 2pm. It also needs a huge amount of maintenance,” said Sharma.
Breson windmills are tailored to fit India’s wind conditions. While imported windmills need a wind speed of at least 10 metres per second, Breson’s turbines can work at a mean air speed of 4.5 metres per second. India has an average wind speed of 5.5 metres per second.
Breson has 16 clients in Chennai and is installing a 5,000W turbine at Infosys Ltd’s Bangalore campus. It is also installing 100 turbines in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district for a private power company and has installed seven turbines for a housing project in Lonavala, a hill station near Mumbai.
Breson has its research and development wing in Thane, and a manufacturing facility in Chennai’s Ambattur area. The company, which has an angel investor backing it, has so far injected Rs5 crore in the business. Sharma said Breson will continue to raise working capital from internal accruals and that he is not too keen on raising funds from early stage or venture capital investors.
Over the past six months, the company has clocked revenues of Rs15 lakh.
Breson has a subsidiary which takes business orders from intermediaries and clients. So far it has developed products and prototypes for intermediaries working on behalf of companies such as Bharat Bijlee Ltd, Voltas Ltd and Samsung India. Breson has a separate subsidiary for taking business orders.
The firm has applied for three patents and is working on other ideas, including a refrigerator that can work without electricity and turbines that can draw water from the ground, again sans electricity.
It is also developing a turbine that can convert air from factory blowers into electricity. It has installed one such turbine in Thane. “We are developing new products related to renewable energy,” said the bespectacled Sharma, whose soft demeanour hides his steely entrepreneurial resolve.
On the challenges the company faces, Sharma counted increasing production capability and establishing a proper marketing channel. Further, awareness of such products is still low. “We believe that maybe for the next two years there isn’t a big market for our offering, but as awareness increases we are positive that demand for our products will go substantially.”
Welingkar Institute is meanwhile actively mentoring Sharma. The institute’s Madhavi Lokhande, a professor and a finance expert, is helping Breson with its marketing plans.
Mint is a strategic partner of National Entrepreneurship Network, which hosts Tata First Dot.