BARIPATHA (Odisha): October 2 this year marked a life-changing transition for the 350-odd dwellers of Baripatha, a tribal village about 25 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. It made history by becoming the first village in the state to be powered entirely by solar energy.
Many solar projects elsewhere in the country have floundered and failed but Baripatha is different. Its model is low-cost, low-maintenance and community-owned – elements that are missing in other solar-powered projects. “This model can be replicated all over Odisha to provide power to its nearly 3,900 villages,” says senior IPS officer Joydeep Nayak, the prime mover behind this initiative.
The Rs 7-lakh project, co-funded by ECCO Electronics (a solar products manufacturer) and Jakson Group (a diversified power solutions provider), has put individual solar units with two lamps in each of the village’s 61 households, along with a central one-kilowatt unit that powers eight street lamps, and an LED television set and a TV set-top box for the community centre.
“Till now, in all rural solar projects, central units would supply power to households. Often, the exposed cables would be tapped by some, while others would draw more than their shares. This would cause the central unit to overload and trip,” says Jakson’s executive vice-president Sandip Ghosh. By providing individual units to each household, these problems have been resolved.
“The entire village has been involved in the planning and execution. Village mukia Narayan Hisa along with a local ITI diploma holder, Epil Kumar Singh, are responsible for the maintenance,” says ECCO CEO Vivek Bihani. “The only maintenance required is regular cleaning of the solar panels and, in case of the central unit, ensuring that the water levels in the batteries are at the optimum mark. It is actually zero-maintenance.”
Two multipurpose LED lamps were handed over to each household on Friday by NALCO chairman and managing director T K Chand and various state officials. “They cost Rs 2,650 and Rs 1,750 each and villagers can get them on easy instalments through micro-finance,” says Bihani. Nayak says NALCO and other companies are willing to subsidize these lamps as part of their CSR.
The central solar unit has eight big panels that can be folded in just two minutes to protect them from cyclones and high-speed winds that hit Odisha frequently. This central unit can also operate a one-horsepower irrigation pump.