AUP students met with Auroville Consulting to learn about the Solar Village, a project dedicated to eradicating electricity inequalities in rural India.
By: Nicole Curren
Solar Village Initiative – Solarize 100 Villages by 2030
As dusk falls upon the villages of Tamil Nadu bright red clouds of dust fill the air, marking the return of children from school and husbands from work. Mothers and wives prepare dinner while daughters fulfill their daily chores and start homework.
Without warning, the power suddenly shuts off throughout the community. Street lights darken, and simple tasks become near impossible, not to mention dangerous. Cast in shadows, villagers adapt to these regular outages which can last anywhere from 4-6 hours on any given day. During festivals and holidays, energy consumption skyrockets and villages are forced to go days without power.
Yet, in nearby Pondicherry the energy required to maintain the hustle and bustle of city life endures without interruption. This is not by chance, nor is it based on a computer run schedule or automated response. Systems operators of Tamil Nadu’s government-run electric companies manually shut down power to villages and divert electricity to major cities.
Maintaining this hierarchical scheme is strategic. Due to water scarcity coal-fired power plants, which account for 70% of India’s power generation, regularly shut down. Because ownership remains concentrated, current Indian law allows for the prioritization of cities over villages.
This clear-cut inequality is the driving force behind the Solar Village’s goal to solarize 100 villages by 2030. Working alongside the government and its electric companies, the organization intends to provide independence through the implementation of sustainable technologies. The Solar Village is also ensuring that 10% of the revenue from the sale of solar energy is to be returned to the villages and used for development.
AUP students got the chance to speak with Jaswanth, a representative from Solar Village, to learn more about the project. By providing this type of independence to villages, Jaswanth assured us that if residents are able to produce more energy than they consume they can actually redo their paperwork to reflect city status. In other words, during limited power supplies they will not be subjected to power cuts. Empowering villages to produce their own electricity is the first step in reducing this disparity.
Throughout the discussion students dug deeper into the logic behind solar, learning that Tamil Nadu’s infrastructure is much more easily adaptable to harvesting energy through solar panels, rather than wind turbines. Not to mention, in terms of sustainability, panels typically last 25 years whereas the lifespan of turbines ranges between 5-7 years. Amidst climate change and the pressures of rapid urbanization, Jaswanth outlined the instability of the current power distribution for the future of India. Indian electric companies simply cannot create enough for everyone, making a shift toward more sustainable energy sources absolutely critical.
Despite roadblocks in the initial planning phases, Jaswanth remains confident panels will be installed over the next three months in the first village, Irumbai.
Making the World a Better, Greener Place
Founded in 2010, Auroville Consulting follows a multi-faceted approach to sustainable development, focusing on collaborations within the public and private sector both nationally and abroad. From research and innovation techniques to operational planning and policy work, the organization provides a multitude of resources both to producers and consumers. This is accomplished through workshops, capacity building and training, and the maintenance of partnerships with major organizations like Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).
The next time you need to search for something on the web simply go to www.thesolarvillage.org. It works through the support of Bing, just like other major engines online. Search ads then generate income that return directly to the Solar Village to support their efforts in the purchase and installation of panels. With the click of a button you can help provide a renewable source of energy to rural communities across India. You can also support their initiative by going online and making a donation.