Kerala is one of the most beautiful States in southern India, known as " The God's Own Country". Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) is an autonomous institution under the Power Department of Government of Kerala. ANERT is also functioning as the State Nodal Agency (S.N.A) of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India. All these years, ANERT has also made a substantial contribution in the field of Renewable Energy Sources, with special emphasis on Solar Energy. ANERT's objective was to extend our help to the tribal people who are away from the main stream of life and living in the forest where basic amenities is not available. These people are away from the conventional utility lines. The existing Central Government rules about forests will not permit the State utility authorities to extend the electricity lines through the forest area.
Giving light to the people will pave the way for further development to the society in all respects. It is a known fact that solar electricity is a right option for the decentralised electricity generation. This Green Energy generation will not affect the environment and hence protect the existing bio-diversity of our evergreen forests. It is non-hazardous, non-polluting and perennial. It is available abundantly at free of cost.
A preliminary study was conducted in the remote colonies to provide at least two home lighting systems in every house. The colonies were categorized into two groups; colonies with clustered houses and colonies with scattered houses. Colonies with clustered houses were prefered for centralised PV Power Plants and colonies with scattered houses are selected for the distribution of Slar Home Systems.
I was fortunate to head the Solar Photovolatic Group in ANERT during the first and second phase of the Solar Village Electrification Project. Engineers of ANERT in different districts conducted a detailed study in each districts regarding the remote hamlets, about the inhabitants, geographic location and the distance of the hamlets from the convetional utility lines. Solar Radiation Data of the particular location is studied and analysed. The data consisting of the number of people in a family, the location of each colony, the Grama Panchayat concerned, the Block Panchayat and the District , the category of families , the distance from the conventional electricity lines etc. are collected and formulated. Solar Home Lighting Systems were proposed for the colonies where the houses are scattered in nature and Solar Stand-alone PV Power Plants were proposed for the colonies where the houses are centrally situated. Stand-alone PV Power Plants were sized, designed suiting to the local requirements of the Tribal Hamlets.
CO-ORDINATION WITH LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENTS
74th and 75th amendment of the Indian Constitution permit Grama Panchayaths for micro power generation using renewable energy sources. Also as per the Kerala Panchayathraj Act, Renewable Energy and its dissemination is the subject of interest of the Local Self Governments and they are empowered to do so. ANERT had conducted District level awareness workshops participating the people's representatives of the Local Self Governments, representatives of NGOs, officials from the District Planning Office, experts from the renewable energy field, officials from the scheduled cast and scheduled tribe departments as a preliminary step before the installation work.
The project includes 11 numbers of Stand-alone Photovoltaic Power Plants with a total installed capacity of 40.02 kWp, about 20,000 numbers of Solar Home Lighting Systems and a total of 896 Solar Street Lighting Systems. All these systems were installed with the involvement of local communities. Some of the sites are very remote in such a way that it required two to three days of trecking to reach there. In such places, mostly tribal hamlets, the materials were transported to the site through head load. Even we used elephants to transport PV materials to a remote Tribal Settlement in Idukki called Mavalikkudi. The cost of the project has been shared by MNRE ( Ministry of New and Renewble Energy), Govt. of India and ANERT. Also the concerned Local Self Governments came with some contribution from their budget allocations.
Sustainabilty was an important consideration for the success of this project. With this concept in mind Beneficiary Societies were constituted under the Charitable Societies Act for the upkeep of the PV systems. Each member of the houses in each colony is a member of the Society. These members should contribute Rs.25 per month to the society for the maintenance work including the replacement cost of batteries after 5 years of Warantee. Two representatives from these colonies were trained for the maintenance of the systems from the day of installation itself. The maintenance committee entrusted these trained people for the day-to-day maintenance of the system. However, in the event of some major maintenance, the contractors were entrusted to do the necessary repair work. For this purpose, Guarantee and an Annual Maintenance Contracts were also provided in the contract.
As a whole it was a wonderful project from ANERT's side for the tribal people. It created more enthusiasm to their children for their studies. Even some families extended their working hours for their home based industries because of the availabilty of lights. It was a right project for the right people.