Solar Power Illuminates Villages in India

Thanks to subsidies provided by India’s Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, the village of Selas, near the Ooty Hill resort in Tamil Nadu now has electricity for the first time in history. The funding has provided for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays and battery back up systems, which exemplify a government trend towards providing electric power to remote villages.

Tamil Nadu, India – September 16, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Around 80 thousand villages in India are yet to be electrified. Of them, about 18,000 are like the Selas habitat, which cannot be connected by the main grid easily, making solar power a logical option. The Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources has geared itself to meet the power needs of such villages from the inexhaustible energy of the sun. It has asked all state governments to furnish a list of villages located beyond the reach of conventional electrification. Plans to electrify over 5000 villages across the country with solar power are in the works. So far, 2700 villages in the country have been electrified this way with the help of subsidies for PV streetlights of 74 watts. Solar lanterns for households are also provided with central subsidies, depending on the model of the solar home system and its wattage. Any interested individual is eligible to install solar home systems and use the central subsidies. Organizations running on not-for-profit basis could also benefit from the opportunity. Street lighting systems could be established by electricity boards and District Rural Development Agencies, which are helped by the state-level energy development outfits. The manufacturers of silicon raw materials and solar PV cells are eligible for loans with a soft interest rate of 7.5 percent by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency. Apart from individual solar appliances, solar power plants are also fast picking up in the country. So far an aggregate of 61 MW power capacity using PV cells has been installed. In Tamil Nadu, solar streetlights are popular, because the subsidy of the Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources makes them cheaper than getting power connection from a conventional source. The Tamil Nadu Government aims to establish 150 solar streetlights in remote and inaccessible tribal pockets as part of its measures to pursue the electrification of the whole state by 2005.

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