Julie Sauerwern and her daughter with solar panel.
Interestingly, the catalyst for change was the destructive cyclone Thane. When Thane uprooted power poles throughout Puducherry and neighboring Cuddalore and put the neighbourhoods in darkness, only Auroville, the international spiritual township, had its lights on.
Many families in Auroville carried on with their chores as if nothing had happened thanks to their solar energy installations.
Seeing this, many people in the region are quickly turning to solar energy, not because they are expecting another Thane, but since power cuts have become a regular nuisance in this part of the country.
And General Tewari, whose bedridden wife Dr Kamala Tewari, 85, needs fan and light on all the time, is one among the new converts.
Ms Julie Sauerwern, 42, along with her two daughters — Rearnie, 5 and Nila, 2 — was among scores of Aurovilleans saved by solar energy. Julie works as an outstation designer for children’s books for schools in the South Pacific islands.
After Thane, her neighbours’ solar batteries and panels helped her meet her deadline. So, she is now planning to switch to solar energy.
Pointing to the efficiency of the solar kitchen in the township, Mithran from Germany, a regular visitor to Auroville, said, “I was shaken up after Thane’s destruction.
At the same time, I was in awe of the solar kitchen in Auroville, the oldest working solar bowl model in the world, as it was not affected. We got our well-cooked, tasty food as usual.”
Solar energy experts Jorz Zimmermann and Rishi said solar power provided supply to operate even washing machines and water heaters.
“We hope Thane has taught us a lesson on energy efficiency,” they said. They added that the government could come out with solar farms where panels are fixed to receive energy and excess power would be passed on to the grid. This way even Chennai could be empowered not to depend on other states for electricity.
Renewable energy meet from March 12
As Chennai is hosting India’s biggest renewable energy conference and exhibition on March 12-13, 2012, DC interacted with Sudeep Jain, chairman of the Tamil Nadu energy development agency(TEDA), which works under the Union ministry of new and renewable energy, about the achievements of Tamil Nadu in the renewable energy sector.
The programme will have over 150 renewable energy companies showcasing successful models of solar, wind, biomass, and waste-to-energy power, which could be used in households.
TEDA is expecting over 5,000 renewable energy enthusiasts at the event in addition to top government officials from energy/ renewable energy departments of over 10 different states.
What are the major renewable energy equipment/gadgets in use among the public?
Box and dish-type solar cooker, solar lanterns, torchlight, streetlights, education institution campus and garden lights are widely used apart from solar fencing and mobile chargers.
TEDA has been conducting awareness campaigns throughout TN through exhibitions, seminars, workshops, business meets and training programmes. We also produce short films on success stories.
At present, how much do renewable energy technologies contribute to the daily power consumption of TN?
The installed capacity of renewable energy is 7466.10 MW. Renewable and wind energy installed capacity in TN are 36 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively of India’s total renewable and wind energy installed capacity. The percentage of renewable energy penetration in the TN grid is around 14 per cent.
Can you predict any increase in renewable energy usage in the state after the conference?
Renergy 2012 conference will focus on enabling India become an attractive market for renewable energy investors and entrepreneurs.
We would provide forums for the public to understand renewable energy sources and use them to save on electricity bills.
Energy roadmap for state
The World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE), Pune, is involved in developing a renewable energy roadmap for Tamil Nadu.
To recommend to the government to tap solar energy in various spots across the state, WISE officials have started identifying the places through GPS (global positioning system) and providing suggestions on successful renewable energy technologies which could be put to use in specific districts.
In a first-of-its-kind in the state, a bank is fully operated with solar energy. The Pallavan Grama Bank, at Ammapettai, in Erode, has all computers, scanners, fans and 30 LED lights operated using solar power obtained from eight solar panels fixed on its terrace. The bank administration is now fixing solar panels in four other branches.
Subsidies for solar equipment
The Tamil Nadu energy development agency provides 30 per cent subsidy to individuals for switching to solar energy. Soft loans will be provided up to 50 per cent for domestic users. Officials say it is a one-time investment for solar water heaters and solar dish cookers.
The cost of a 100 lpd (litres per day) solar water heater is around `23,000 and a dish cooker costs around Rs 8,000. The payback time for domestic use is maximum five years and, for industrial use, three years.
Solar potential in India
Minister of new and renewable energy M. Farooq Abdullah said India has good potential for solar power as it receives solar energy equivalent to over 5,000 trillion kWh per year, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country.
The daily average solar energy incident varies from 4-7 kWh per square metre of the surface area depending upon the location and time of the year. He says that solar radiation is available at most locations in India for about 300 days a year.
The ministry of new and renewable energy has started a voice call-based national helpline, in English and Hindi, on solar water heater to create awareness and address consumer requirements.
The toll-free helpline 1800-233-4477 functions from 0930 to 1800 hours Monday-Friday and 0930 to 1330 hours on Saturdays. It would guide the consumer choose the right solar energy gadgets. More details at: http://www.stfi.org.in