Sustainable Energy in Rural India

India is progressing towards a developed economy. If sustainability is not taken seriously, the environmental impact of this will be humongous and to some extent irreversible. This need to be accounted for both at urban and rural level.

There are still more than 80,000 (Eighty thousand) villages in India that do not have access to electricity. Most of these villages depend on biomass, like cowdung and firewood, to warm their house, and oil lamps for lighting in night. All these energy sources are inefficient and polluting. They produce fumes and particulates which are bad for health. The challenges for electrification in these villages are mainly due to inaccessbility and other socio-economic factors.

Solar electrification is an ideal decentralized solution mainly in areas which are inaccesible. Transporting solar panels and batteries, and locally setting up solar grids is much easier than setting up electric poles and power lines to withdraw energy from a centrelized energy grid. There are advantages of energy efficiency in production and transmission as well.

Power of Solar

Solar power is the world’s most abundant source of renewable energy. There are few different ways to harness solar energy. It can either be used to directly produce electricity through photo-voltaic (PV) cells, or in form of thermal energy to heat water, buildings and other passive uses like drying of crops. Apart from its benefits in GHG reduction, the use of solar energy can reduce the release of pollutants—such as particulates and noxious gases—from the older fossil fuel plants that it replaces. Solar thermal and PV technologies do not generate any type of solid, liquid or gaseous by-products when producing electricity.

Solar energy gives a clean, non polluting and sustainable energy with numerous advantages:

  • During electricity generation with PV panels there is no harmful greenhouse gas emissions thus solar PV is environmentally friendly.
  • Solar energy is free and abundant!
  • Solar energy can be made available almost anywhere there is sunlight. It is easier to install at remote places with tougher terrains, rather than setting powerlines
  • Solar Panels cost is currently on a fast reducing making it suitable both for economical viability and environmental sustainability.
  • Operating and maintenance costs for PV panels are considered to be low, almost negligible, compared to costs of other renewable energy systems
  • PV panels have no mechanically moving parts, they have far less breakages or require less maintenance than other renewable energy systems
  • PV panels are totally silent, producing no noise at all; so they are perfect for home installations.

Apart from clean energy, equal access to energy for everyone is essential to eradicate poverty and hence fighting climate change. This is a vicious cycle hard to break as one cannot ask people to heal the environment, or even just mind it, if they can barely sustain themselves.
Energy poverty is a huge challenge that needs to be addressed as 19% (about 1.4 billion people) of the world still do not have access to elelctricity. (Read more)

Ladakh, India

Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert with altitude more than 10000 feet. It's a challenging landscape with most of its villages at very remote locations. Owing to the remoteness all these communities are off grid and energy access is the prime issue that needs to be addressed. This is where we are trying to make an impact. As a first step towards holistic development of these villages we are setting up decentralized solar electricity grids in remote places of Ladakh. Since 2013, GHE has installed solar micro-grids in 48 remote villages across the Ladakh region of India.