Bringing renewable energy to remote communities.
In India off-grid means remote, rural areas where there are no roads, frequent sandstorms and villagers who live in mud thatch or tin huts. Only 44% of rural households have access to electricity, with 50 million homes off-grid and 50% of Indian homes unable to afford even subsidized electricity. This rooftop solar panel program provides clean, renewable, Direct Current (DC) electricity to 40,000 rural households many of whom would not have lights otherwise. Households consume less than 500 kWh of electricity per year. For comparison purposes, the average American home consumes an average of 900 kWh of electricity in a month. The innovative and award-winning DC system created by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, provides families with the rooftop DC solar panel, a small-sized battery with a controller to stop charging when full, an inverter-less converter to Alternating Current (AC), light bulbs, a fan, a mobile charging unit and a socket for other uses. To visit one of the project areas, we traveled by boat to river islands that are home to extremely poor Jute farmers. Their weather is characterized by regular floods and extreme heat. Local people are constantly at risk of diseases such as dengue and malaria.
The project uses a combination of carbon finance and microfinance to bring clean renewable solar energy to power lights and appliances for rural households. Families save of up to 1/3 of their household income which helps them repay their loans and provide long term savings that can be used for other needs. While decentralized roof-top solar to generate power is another energy option for rural homes, the cost of a conventional solar PV system to provide basic light and fans (and cell-phone charger) have been problematic because of poor design and high battery costs. For off-grid homes, where electricity is only traveling a short distance, DC that provides a constant voltage or current is an excellent solution. DC energy has a small footprint because it is easy to harness and store, requires a smaller battery, and a smaller rooftop panel to gather electricity.
A Bright Idea - India
- Goal 1: No poverty
- Goal 2: Zero hunger
- Goal 3: Good health and well-being
- Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
- Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Goal 13: Climate action