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Solar power to empower Bihar village

The Asian Age, New Delhi, September 5, 2013

A village in Bihar that lost its electricity connection 30 years ago and then never succeeded in getting the state government to reconnect power supply is all set to be electrified again, this time with solar power that villagers and experts believe can meet the residents’ growing needs.

Dharnai village in Jehanabad district’s Makhdumpur block, is where Greenpeace, an NGO campaigning for environment and sustainable energy, is setting up a solar-powered smart micro grid for the first time in India as a rural electrification model. Nearly 80 km off Patna, the village has a population of 2,200 and has been depending on the costly and polluting diesel-generated power for domestic illumination and irrigation of agricultural fields of about 1,200 bighas. “We are very glad to welcome this solar-power project in our village to end our nagging problems of electricity,” said Ajay Singh Yadav, the elected panchayat mukhia of Dharnai, talking excitedly about the ambitious project Greenpeace would begin later this month so that it becomes operational by mid-2014.

Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich said the `2.7-crore micro grid, co-implemented with BASIX and Centre for Environment and Energy Development, would involve about 100 KW of solar panels and supply affordable, sustainable and round-the-clock electricity to all the 350 households in Dharnai. Consumers have agreed to pay `5 to `6 per unit of power, he said. “This dynamic micro-grid, a one of its kind model of rural electrification, will benefit all sections of society,” said BASIX India MD Mihir Sahana.

Its success will attract investors and impact the government’s regulatory framework,” said BASIX India managing director Mihir Sahana.

Only about 16.4 per cent households in Bihar currently have power connection, which is much more lower than the national average of 67.3 per cent. Bihar’s per capita consumption of power is 127 kWh, according to a 2011 survey, which is 15 per cent of the national average of 819 kWh.