Tuesday, 9 March 2010

SELCO, bringing solar light to families and businesses in Bangalore

The second of Jo’s visits to award-winners in India, following the Building a sustainable energy future for India conference in February, was to SELCO:

“Following my long day driving round the countryside with TIDE I was pleased that the projects I went to visit the following day with SELCO were on the outskirts of Bangalore.

The first area we visited was just off the busy main road we’d driven along the day before. This settlement seemed quite densely populated but was clean and peaceful and, as I was visiting on a religious holiday, there was a very happy mood with beautiful designs on the ground outside many of the houses. Many of the people who live here are of low-caste and quite poor. Although there is mains electricity here it is unreliable and they have to pay for it. A local politician has paid for many of the homes to have solar home systems (SHS) installed by SELCO. These systems typically consist of a small solar PV panel plus battery and one or two CFL lights. The homes I visited generally had two rooms, one for living and a kitchen so these systems were adequate.

One household I visited was so pleased with their SHS that they had cut the wires to the mains electricity supply!

We then moved on to another village on the outskirts of Bangalore where the principal activity is raising silk-worms. The worms are housed in secure buildings with small windows to stop birds getting in and having a free lunch. This makes them very dim which is fine for the worms but difficult for the farmers when they go in to feed them the mulberry leaves which constitute their diet – something which has to be done every four hours. In the past they would use candles but these frequently fell onto the racks of silk-worms sending the whole lot up in smoke.

SELCO have supplied solar lamps to the businesses but adapted the usual systems sold so that the lamps supplied have a long lead. This enables the farmer to move around the racks of silk worms as he feeds them, casting a bright, safe, carbon-neutral light on their work.

I went up on the flat roof of one of the buildings and was struck as I looked around the village by how many of the roofs had solar panels on them. This is obviously a popular solution - SELCO have installed 80 systems here in the last three years”.

You can find out more about all of our winners by visiting our website.

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