GW students start India’s first hybrid power plant

Hooking up, boozing and partying late are some of the activities most commonly associated with the residents of Thurston Hall. Establishing an international energy firm is typically not a freshman activity seen on this list.

Last year, two GW students created a sustainable energy firm called NEXTGen Syndicate, LLC after lengthy brainstorming sessions in the residence hall’s basement. They have since received a contract from Provincial Minister of Planning Shri Saurabhbhai Patel to establish India’s first hybrid power plant.

“India is growing like crazy,” said NEXTGen President Francis Murray, a sophomore. “The government is opening new power plants every day. We knew there were large companies doing this in America, but not in India.”

The duo has also secured a joint venture with General Electric, which agreed to partner with NEXTGen because of the high efficiency and moderate cost of hybrid energy. The Indian plant will use hybrid energy by combining solar power with natural gas, producing optimal efficiency and clean energy while not sacrificing India’s natural resources.

The young entrepreneurs said India’s high population puts restraints on its development, adding that the country cannot afford to industrialize like other nations and must be progressive in its energy policy.

“India really needs renewable, alternative energies if it wants to develop,” said NEXTGen CEO Mohit Shah, a sophomore of Indian descent. “If they develop like the West did, it’ll wreck the planet.”

Shah and Murray recently met with GW professor Mark Starik, chair of the department of strategic management and public policy. He said he sees promise in the project.

“I think that eventually India and the rest of the world will be using solar and renewable technologies,” Starik said. “I’m not sure why it hasn’t been done so far, other than that the right people with the ‘right stuff’ haven’t yet tried it there.”

In India, private energy companies do not collect profit directly from consumers. Rather, the government agrees to an annual rate with businesses and purchases their services in whole.

NEXTGen is establishing the plant in Gujarat, India’s most industrialized province and home to more than 50 million people. The provincial government, has been awarding contracts in droves, Shah said.

When the firm sets up the plant in Gujarat, they will be on the cutting edge of technology. NEXTGen will use NanoSolar, a sustainable energy company thst develops cheap paper-thin solar panels, which has taken interest in the project. The company has also garnered the attention of Schott, a multi-million dollar energy firm in Germany.

Shah said they will spend a limited amount of time on the project.

“At the end of the contract period, we’re forfeiting the plant to the government,” Shah said. “Our goal is more to get this project initiated to create progress.”

NEXTGen plans to develop new methods for using solar energy and will explore the use of other renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal and hydroelectric energies, according to the firm’s Web site.

Murray said major progress will come from small steps forward.

“This is our generation’s battle,” Murray said. “While one solar plant might not seem like much, it’s a big precedent forward.”

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