Solar lighting systems successful in Rajasthan
It is a simple device but it has shrunk the nights in Rajasthan's countryside. Over the past decade, thousands of families in the state's remote villages, unconnected with the grid, have installed solar lighting systems at their homes, which harness solar energy to generate electricity.
According to the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation, the nodal agency of the union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (mnre), 73,590 solar home lighting systems have been installed in Rajasthan since 1999. This is more than one-fifth of the total such systems installed across the country. Dabkan in Alwar district is one such village where all the 50-odd families use solar lighting systems. "We don't need the grid. It is unreliable and dangerous, and one has to keep paying the bill," says Choti Devi, a resident. While solar power came to Dabkan in 2006, some villages in Sawai Madhopur district have been using it for six-seven years.
The device, manufactured by Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Ltd, has a 37-watt solar panel, a 12-volt battery with an estimated life of five years and a two-point connection, which includes two nine-watt cfl bulbs. It costs Rs 10,625. Villagers say they get up to seven hours of lighting, and can also run a small fan or television with the system. "The scheme is a success. We have been able to spread it through word of mouth," says M S Mathur, field officer at the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation.
So what is making the solar home lighting system successful in Rajasthan? One, it helps that the state receives good sunlight throughout the year. Two, these are introduced through gram panchayats--after people see its functions and benefits, they are willing to pay. And three, the state gives the biggest subsidy of all the states, says Mathur. The subsidy is given directly to the people, with the funds coming from mnre through the state nodal agencies. The Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation provides extra funds for subsidies from other government agencies such as the Tribal Area Development Agency.
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