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Solar Applications

Experiments and experiences help people to have a range of tested options. It also motivates people to experiment on new initiatives which when shared would be helpful to the country. This page highlights experiments and experiences in use of solar power to energise communities.

This small-time juice vendor makes hay while the sun shines

Ramadas was very positive when he started a juice shop in Puducherry. However, his enthusiasm was shortlived as he could not earn sufficient money for a decent living due to frequent load-shedding. He gradually lost his customers.

But he did not want to give up his business since he had to look after his family. Suddenly, an useful thought came to his mind during discussions with his friends. He decided to implement his idea and install solar panel and other equipment to run his fruit juice shop along the East Coast Road in Puducherry. It has started paying dividends.

Ramadas, hailing from Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu, has not invested much on his new venture. The electrical devices — refrigerator, mixer and a light — operate from the power generated by solar panels fitted atop the cart.

“I worked in a tea stall as a daily labourer. After that I opened a juice shop in a rented area and paid the advance amount. However, due to frequent load-shedding he could not make any profit. I was finding it difficult to pay the rent also,” he said.

Ramadas does not blame the government for his problems. Instead, he says: “There is no point in faulting ministers and officials. In a way I should be thankful to the government. Otherwise, the idea of setting up the solar power juice shop wouldn’t have cropped up in my mind. Now, I earn on an average Rs 1,500 per day,” he said.Ramadas's wife Parvathy, who is helping her husband, said “he was upset when he initially suffered losses. I encouraged him to start on his own again, which worked out very well.”

Wife’s assistance:

Parvathy gets up early and purchases fresh fruits from the market. In addition, she gives innovative ideas in preparing fresh juices by mixing different fruits.

Ramadas of Karuvadikuppam taluk claimed that the idea of the stall was conceptualised by him and it was implemented by Phocos India. “I paid only Rs 20,000 as advance. The company arranged a loan for me without asking any documents,” he said.

Ramadas said the solar panels would also serve as a roof for the cart and it has the capacity to generate over 1,000 watts. While the freezer operates on power generated directly, the mixie and light use power from the battery.

Besides solar panels, the push cart has a charge controller, 1,000W inverter and 2x135AH battery. “Based on Ramadas idea, we have designed the cart for very small-scale business,” E K Pratap, Sales Manager of the company, said.

According to him, the shopkeeper uses the mixer-grinder for preparing fresh juices.

He can use a solar-powered DC-operated refrigerator for storing the fruits, water and other consumable items. This system is completely indepen¬dent from the grid. Pratap said his firm in Puducherry, a branch of the Germany-based firm, had chipped in nearly Rs 1.50 lakh for setting up the solar-powered fruit stall.

To create awareness

He said the aim of building the stall was to create awareness among the public about solar-powered products.

Ramadas said the push cart was purchased by him and the fitting of solar panels and electrical connections were done by Phocos India. One interesting aspect is that, Ramadas leaves the cart with equipment on the road after his business. “I just cover the cart in plastic sheets. So far, there has been no theft or damage to equipment,” Ramadas said while serving a “cocktail” fruit juice to one of his customers.

Ramadas is also planning to open one more solar-powered juice stall after repaying his loan.

“Hopefully, I will clear all my dues in a year. After that I will open another shop similar to this,” he said.

He is also keen in creating awareness about the solar energy among the custo¬mers who come to his shop. “If anyone is interested, I will help,”a confident Rama¬das said. After seeing Ramadas' innovation, entrepreneurs in and around Puducherry evinced interest for venturing into new business where solar power could help them.“I am planning to start a small textile unit run by solar energy. I have already placed my inquiry with the company,” S Vinod, a commerce graduate, said.

One-time investment

Though solar power is bit costly compa¬red to other energy, Vinod claims that it will be a one-time investment and also reliable.

In Tamil Nadu and in the neighbouring Puducherry, power woes continue to torment not only the people but also businessmen in various sectors, who are under severe pressure to stay in the market in the last couple of years.

Barring cities such as Chennai and Puducherry, other areas, especially the rural region, are facing unannounced load-shedding of minimum five hours.

Source: R Sathyanarayana, SESI, May 18, 2014

The women of India's Barefoot College bring light to remote villages

Kamla Devi was Rajasthan's first woman to graduate from Barefoot college as a solar engineer.

Securing the end of her bright yellow and orange sari firmly around her head, Santosh Devi climbs up to the rooftop of her house to clean her solar panels. The shining, mirrored panels, which she installed herself last year, are a striking sight against the simple one-storey homes of her village. No less remarkable is that this 19-year-old, semi-literate woman from the backwaters of Rajasthan has broken through India's rigid caste system to become the country's first Dalit solar engineer.

Growing up, Santosh had to avoid the upper caste people of her village or cover her face in their presence. Nowadays, they seek her help. "For them, I am a solar engineer who can repair and install the light installations," she says. "From looking down on the ground when higher caste people passed to looking them in the eye, I never imagined this would have been possible."

Santosh was trained to be a solar engineer at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, 100km from Jaipur. The college was set up in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy to teach rural people skills with which they could transform their villages, regardless of gender, caste, ethnicity, age or schooling. The college, spread over eight acres, runs entirely on solar energy, maintained by the Barefoot solar engineers. Since the solar course was launched in 2005, more than 300 Barefoot engineers have brought power to more than 13,000 homes across India. A further 6,000 households, in more than 120 villages in 24 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, have been powered on the same model.

Only villages that are inaccessible, remote and non-electrified are considered for solar power. Marked by a stick fence, Santosh's predominantly Dalit village, Balaji Ki Dhani, is a hamlet consisting of about 20 mud houses scattered over five acres of semi-arid land. The only incongruous element in what could otherwise pass as an 18th-century rural set-up is the cement-built home – the only one in the village – where Santosh lives with her husband, baby son and in-laws. The house has two bedrooms, two mud huts in the courtyard – one housing goats, the other a kitchen – and a third room that functions as Santosh's workshop. Here she spends around six hours a day repairing solar lanterns. Santosh built the house with money she made as a solar engineer. Thanks to her, the other households in the village now have solar power too.

Under the Barefoot model, they pay a monthly fee based on how much they would have spent on kerosene, batteries, wood and candles. Some of the money goes towards the solar engineer's monthly stipend, while the rest pays for components and spare parts. Choti Devi, an upper caste Hindu in her late 60s, is Santosh's immediate neighbour. She can't stop gushing about her solar lanterns. "With the light, it is easier to make the beds at night. During the rainy season many poisonous insects roam around, but now that we have light in the night we do not worry as much. The lanterns have also helped us to guard our cattle properly while getting them back to the house in the evenings," she says.

As is the custom in rural India, women do the bulk of the housework and agricultural labour. Although Santosh doesn't work in the fields any more, at home she is endlessly busy. If she is not tending to her 17-month-old son, she is milking the cattle, feeding the livestock, attending to customers at the small grocery store she runs from home and repairing solar lanterns. She is quick-witted and confident, although she admits the first day at college was scary. "I thought I would never be able to understand anything – let alone be able to do it on my own. I didn't even know that we could use the sunlight to light up our homes at night ... I was as amazed as the other villagers."

Since she became a Barefoot solar engineer, the total income of the family has doubled. "Before, I worked in the fields the whole day and then I had to rush back so that I could cook dinner while there was still daylight. I hardly got a moment to breathe," says Santosh. At the Barefoot College, the women learn through listening and memorising, using colour-coded charts that help them to remember the permutation and combination of the wires without needing to read or write.

Any woman over 35 from a remote, inaccessible, non-electrified area can enrol for the international course, provided she is backed by her village. The class is conducted in a large, rectangular workshop, with a long worktable running through the middle, around which the women sit with their individual colour sheets and panels.

Back in Balaji Ki Dhani, Santosh climbs down from her roof and reflects on her modest ambitions for her family: a television, a grinder to make flour, and a motorbike for her husband, who has to walk the 10km to work every day. With her livelihood secure thanks to her training, these small luxuries are now within reach. "I never thought I would be able to do anything worthwhile," she says proudly.

Source: The Guardian

Solar Air Drying Project Catches International Attention

Solar fish drying system set up by Planters Energy Network for government of Kerala through National Research Development Corporation, a Government of India Enterprise at Sakthikulankara harbor near Quilon is yielding satisfactory results. Set up at an estimated cost of Rs 25,00,000/- spread over a 90 m2 area, it consists of solar air collector, a bio mass backup hot air generator and a recirculation stainless steel dryer with full automation for controlling the drying parameters. Around 500 kg of fish could be loaded per batch in trolleys with trays. Depending on the fish the drying time varies from 4 hours to 12 hours.

The dried product is vacuum packed and conforms to hygienic facility of EU standards. Since installation the project has already resulted in monetary savings of 45% of the investment as claimed by the project developers. With this success, National Fishery Dev Board is looking at the possibility to extend to other parts of our country. India has a long coast of around 18,000 km where fishing is the main activity. The government of Oman is also in discussions with State government of Kerala state for installing similar units in their country. For more details, visit

National Research Development Corporation

Community charging station

Narayanpur Village has 16 households belong to scheduled tribe community, without any electricity connection. The source of home light is kerosene, the price of which varies from Rs.30/ltr. - 40/ltr, and the light intensity is only 10 lumen. One Solar Lantern is given to the each household. And a community solar lantern charging station has been established at the village with two 60W solar panel. 2 Circuit boxes are been given so that 16 lanterns can be directly charged at a time.

Environmental Impacts

In the households generally kerosene lantern are used for lighting purpose and monthly kerosene consumption of one such lantern is 2 lt- 2.5 lt. Though the quality and intensity of illumination Solar Lantern is far better than that of a Kerosene Lantern but considering the demand of light at different places at the same time one kerosene lantern is taken to be substituted by one solar lantern.

  • So amount of Kerosene substitution per month per family: 2 -2.5 Lt.
  • Amount of carbon-di-oxide emitted in burning 1 Lt of Kerosene: 2.5 Kg.
  • Amount of carbon-di-oxide emissions reduction in 16 families per year: 960-1200 Kg (~ 1 Carbon Credit).
  • Now each family is saving about Rs.70 to 100 per lamp. For maintenance of the entire system and for future community assets relating to energy (Mainly Solar Lighting) the community have agreed to save 25 Rs per month per family.

    Social Impacts

    As the quality illumination of the Solar Lantern is quite better than kerosene lantern mainly for studying purpose. Community has also started an evening coaching centre at the village which would surly increases the level of education in the village. This lantern has also decreased the monthly demand of kerosene oil for each family that will ensure that families not have to buy kerosene from the open market Community Charging station at Narayanpur village with exceptionally high price rather availability from the Public distribution systems will be enough for them. Successful execution of the systems will ensure a better cooperation between the community and the financial resources (group saving) of the community is been diverted to GHG emitting source (Kerosene) to a more environment friendly sources (Solar or other renewable sources).

    The economical balance sheet

    DRCSC's Contribution
    • Cost of 2 Solar Panels ((@ 9000.00/- ) - 18000.00
    • Cost of frame for installing the solar panel - 1500.00
    • Cost of 2 Circuit Boxes and wire for charging multiple solar lantern - 1500.00
    • Cost of 16 Solar Lanterns (@ 900.00/- per Lantern) - 14400.00
    • Cost of carrying 16 Solar Lanterns from Kolkata to Narayanpur - 6000.00
    • Total DRCSC's Contribution - 41,400.00
    Community contribution
    • Installation Charge of 3 solar panels at the roof of a one storied building (4 Labors @ 50.00/-) - 200.00
    • Material and labor charge for fixing the structure to the roof - 500.00
    • Painting and material charge of Iron Structure for Solar panel - 100.00
    • Total Community Contribution - 800.00

    Source : DRCSC Newsletter, Issue 6

    Clean, green and bright

    In the remote Kabbigere village in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka, greenery is conspicuous. What is not so visible in this remote village is that the Gram Panchayat is the first in India to sell power to a power grid.

    Kabbigere Gram Panchayat sells power generated by its self-run biomass power plants at a rate of Rs.2.85 per kWh to the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company. The pioneering initiative is an outcome of a UNDP-led project - the Biomass Energy for Rural India - implemented in partnership with the Global Environment Facility, the India-Canada Environment Facility and the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.

    Three small power plants of 250, 250 and 500 KW capacity each produce electricity from locally produced biomass. Since 2007, about 400,000 kWh of electricity has been generated. This equals the annual consumption of 6,000 rural households and has helped ensure more reliable electricity supply in the area.

    In addition to the benefits of increased power generation, it is more environment-friendly. The electricity generated through biomass is produced from locally grown eucalyptus and other trees and the increased need for the same has in-turn led to more greening of the area.

    “Sometimes it is difficult to believe how much has changed around us -- there is so much more greenery around us, electricity supply is more regular and we have clean fuel for cooking,” says Siddagangamma, the president of the village committee in Kabbigere.

    For 25-year-old Rangamma the change has meant that she gets to spend a little more time with her husband. “My husband is happy as now he does not have to go and fetch wood every day. He has extra money and time on his hands,” says a smiling Rangamma, adding: “I enjoy cooking for my family now as the fumes don’t choke me.”

    In addition to environmental benefits, the economic savings from the project have also been significant. Fifty-one group biogas or gobar gas plants, set up as part of the project, have helped 175 households cook with cleaner fuel without any increase in operational costs, according to monitoring reports.

    The electricity produced has also ensured that 130 borewells built in the village, each shared by five families, are used to meet irrigation needs of the village. This has increased average household income in Kabbigere by about 20 percent, says a project officer, adding: “Employing locals in the power plants, who are regularly trained by the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, has also improved the generation of skilled labour and employment opportunities.”

    In addition, the biogas plants obtain the organic waste for fuel from nurseries set up by 81 Self Help Groups thereby providing income generation opportunities for women from marginalised communities. Meeting the power needs of the village through renewable energy and simultaneously improving cooking and irrigation techniques has effectively demonstrated the potential for environmentally sustainable development.

    Source : UNDP

    Lighting up the lives

    Anamika loves to study English and she, too, wants one day to become a doctor. “The lights will be very useful so I can study more. There are lots of problems with electricity here. Recently there was no power for two or three days. If we have lamps we can work at night. I will have more time to study", says Anamika..

    The state of Uttar Pradesh has a total of 454 KGBVs out of which 376 are run by the Government and 78 by various NGOs. More than 37,000 girls were enrolled in the programme in 2009.

    One hundred solar-powered SUNNAN lamps, donated by IKEA Social Initiative, arrived at the school last month, enough for each of the girls to receive one. The students eagerly accepted the lamps in bright primary colors, unwrapping and assembling them, giggling gleefully.

    “Usually at night the girls just while away the time. Now everyone will get a separate lamp so they can manage the study time as they like,” Kishore says. “This is a total rural area and electricity is not available for two to four days. These lights are very beneficial for our girls. … These girls are very curious, and they want to study well in the night time just as well as they do in the daytime. They come to our school, and they grow so much as children.”

    For every SUNNAN solar-powered lamp sold in IKEA stores worldwide, another lamp will be given to UNICEF to light up the lives of children who may not have access to electricity. IKEA has made an especially sturdy SUNNAN for the developing world. The lamps are designed to resist the wear and tear of difficult living situations, including a battery capable of withstanding high temperatures.

    A total of 66,740 SUNNAN lamps are being distributed to 6,494 schools and women’s literacy groups in UP. Another 24,720 lamps are also being distributed in the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

    “When there is light, it’s bright, and I like it,” says Mantasha happily. “When there is no light, we go to bed very early after dinner and get up early. Now at night I can study.”

    Source:Photo essay on "Lighting up lives with IKEA SUNNAN lamps"

    Last Modified : 2/20/2020

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