Solar photovoltaic lights for remote hilly region houses

The Hindu, Monday, Mar 08, 2004

DINDIGUL, MARCH 7. The district administration is taking all-out efforts to provide solar photovoltaic lights at houses in remote hilly region and inaccessible areas in the district. Priority has been given to the Sirumalai hills, N. Idimannan, Project Officer, District Rural Development Agency, Dindigul, has said. He was presiding over a training programme for bankers on solar home lighting system and effective lending, organised by the Syndicate Bank and the Bharathiya Vikas Trust at the Collectore here today.

To begin with, 20 solar lights would be fitted in the Sirumalai hills. Solar photovoltaic lights would be a viable alternative to electric power, particularly in hilly regions. Already, all panchayat union offices in the district had the solar lighting system. Though an initial investment was little bit high, the subsequent expenses, including maintenance, were very low. To propagate this among the people, the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency was offering 50 per cent subsidy for these products.

Solar energy was available for almost 330 days in a year in the district, he added. In his special address, V. Bakthavatchalam, Coordinator for Tamil Nadu and Coastal Andhra Pradesh Bharathiya Vikas Trust, said 140 million rural households in the country did not have access to grid electricity. Mr. Bakthavatchalam said 60,000 villages were still not connected with electric power. 19 per cent of villages in hilly region did not have electric power at all. Solar power was only a supplement to electric power and not a replacement.

There was acute shortage of electric power in Karnataka and Kerala. Solar lights were not popularised owing to lack of awareness among the people, lack of financial support and concern for credit worthiness of solar projects. Most of the economic activities were affected owing to lack of support from bankers, he said "Without Banker's role, the programme may not succeed. Cooperation and coordination from bankers was indispensable for the success of the project." The main objective of the programme was to promote economically sustainable and environmentally sound solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies. Improving the quality of life in rural areas through electrification at rural households and village-levels help stem migration to big cities, Mr. Bakthavatsalam said.

The Bharathiya Vikas Trust planned to conduct 500 awareness programmes for bankers throughout the country on solar energy. It so far covered Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Dindigul meeting was the first district in Tamil Nadu.