Meg Cichon, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
November 12, 2013 | 7 Comments
From electrifying remote villages in India to tackling landfill waste in California, this year’s Project of the Year Award winners represent the ever-shifting global renewable energy landscape. The 2013 awardees display excellence in five renewable energy technologies: Solar, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal and Hydro.
Editors from Renewable Energy World and Power Engineering selected the winners from among the finalists in each technology category. The award winners were announced and recognized at the co-located Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo and Power-Gen International in Orlando, Florida.
To be eligible for an award, a project needs to have been commissioned between August 1st, 2012 and July 31st, 2013 and make a significant impact on the entire renewable energy industry. When judging the finalists, network editors considered the technology that was employed as well as the projects’ impact on the industry at large and on the communities in which they were installed.
Here are some of the projects that are helping to change the energy landscape.
Winner: Solar Electrification of 57 Remote Villages
Deep in the heart of Andhra Pradesh in southern India, hundreds of villagers huddled by candlelight to go about their nightly activities, many having never seen electricity in their lifetimes – until now. Premier Solar Systems electrified 57 of these remote villages with solar energy, and it was no easy task.
To reach each village, workers typically were forced to walk several kilometers through wilderness trails, cross rivers by boat, and then walk some more. A long line of workers carried equipment to each site on foot – one with a solar panel, the next carried a sack of bricks, then a roll of wire, a bag of nuts and bolts, batteries and so on. After several days of hauling, technicians, with help from the locals, would construct an 8-kilowatt (kW) solar array, and the villagers would finally see light.
These off-grid projects collect solar energy throughout the day, which is stored in batteries. At night, a “dusk-to-dawn” switch is activated, and the batteries provide fresh solar energy to the villages. Each installation powers an average of 23 homes per village. “Street lights” are also installed, which turn off at 9:30 p.m. and switch back on from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m.
According to Premier Solar, the solar installations have revolutionized the villages and connected them to the rest of the world. Construction created jobs for villagers to earn income, which has allowed some to purchase electronics and learn the concept of trade -- some even opened their own shops.
Premier Solar will continue its work to electrify villages by taking on another 20 in Adilabad and 19 in Khamman.
Runner-up and Readers' Choice: Solar-Agro-Electric Model
In Gujarat, India, a solar project is providing both electricity and agricultural benefits. The Solar-Agro-Electric Model consists of a 3-MW solar project that spans over 17.5 acres of farmland in a rural community.
It’s a symbiotic relationship. The panels produce electricity for the villagers, but also provide necessary shade and security for the growing crops below. The panels are washed often for increased efficiency, and the crops are watered simultaneously. Post-harvest residues are replaced under the panels for improved fertilization.
The project has provided agricultural work for 100 villagers, and the crops are sold at local markets and also distributed among the workers.
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