Solar energy microgrid powers India village in Bihar

by Guest Blogger

July 17, 2014

Even as more than 300 million people still wait for electricity in India, Dharnai in Bihar declared itself energy-independent today with the launch of Greenpeaces solar-powered micro-grid. The 100 kilowatt (kW) micro-grid currently provides quality electricity to a population of more than 2200 in Dharnai village of Jehanabad district in Bihar.

We had tried everything in the book to get electricity for the last 30 years. But we havent seen a single speck of hope. While India was growing leaps and bounds, we were stuck here with kerosene lamps and expensive diesel generators. But now I can proudly say that Dharnai is a leader in innovation. We have established our identity as an energy-self-sufficient village and can compete with the country in its race to growth, said Kamal Kishore a resident of Dharnai.

The solar powered micro-grid is a comprehensive, first of its kind enterprise that provides electricity to more than 400 households and 50 commercial establishments. This includes 70 kW for electricity generation and 30 kW for 10 solar powered water pumping systems of three horsepower each. The 100 kW micro-grid also takes care of 60 street lights, energy requirements of two schools, one health centre, one Kisan Training Centre and 50 commercial establishments. It gives the village the mandate to not just a better life but also an ambition.

Solar-powered water pump at Bishunpur Tolla, Dharnai

Solar-powered water pump at Bishunpur Tolla, Dharnai

Stories from Dharnai

A majority of the global population without access to electricity comprises of the poor in India with more than a third of the rural population lacking access to electricity. The decentralised, expandable and sustainable approach of the micro-grid provides that critical catalyst to power the new growth centres of India like Dharnai as well as bridge the deficit in urban areas. It is also a solution that can plug into the current governments focus on using solar power for energy access to every household by 2019.

Even as the government is preoccupied with blaming civil society for stopping energy projects, here is a village that has created its own energy pathway through an alternate model of sustainable energy. The coal-fired and nuclear-fired power plants of the country will not be able to reach the Dharnais of the country. Nor will they be able to address global climate concerns and Indias commitments towards those concerns. India needs to seriously reconsider its energy strategy and prioritise renewable energy for social and climate justice, said Samit Aich, Executive Director, Greenpeace India at the launch of the micro-grid.

Solar panels atop house in Dharnai Tolla.

Solar panels atop house in Dharnai Tolla.

The micro-grid has been set up with the approval and conformity of the people of Dharnai. So while it is a 100 kW system as of now, it can be expanded to meet the advanced requirements of the people.

Hear from Greenpeace India’s Head of Renewable Energy

The micro-grid intends to be the answer to the intense policy and vision paralysis that Indias energy sector faces today. The towns and villages of Bihar have been deprived of energy for decades now and we feel this is where the micro-grid can be the connect. We urge the Bihar government to follow and replicate this model, said Naveen Mishra of Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED).

A woman in Dharnai- Solar panels seen in the background.

A woman in Dharnai- Solar panels seen in the background.

The micro-grid is operated in association with BASIX, a livelihood promotion institution as well as CEED, which is a network of NGO’s and think tank organisations in Bihar to support renewable energy development in the state.

Greenpeace appeals to the government of Bihar to recognise decentralised renewable energy systems (DRES) like the Dharnai model for replicating and upscaling to provide energy to the dark villages of Bihar and create adequate regulatory structure for promotion of similar models.

Head of Renewable Energy Campaign, Greenpeace India from Ruhie Kumar on Vimeo.

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