Sunlight: The New Electricity In Bihar

“The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business.”

That’s what Edward Cullen says to Bella in Twilight when he offers her a ride to Seattle, citing her truck’s horrible gas mileage as an excuse.

Okay, fine. I used a quote out of Twilight. Sue me. But hey, it’s true and you know it.

Power problems have been growing from bad to worse in our country. This summer, the newspapers were full of articles on electricity and water shortage.  Don’t forget the major power grid failures we had at the end of July, which was caused by the fact that some states were overdrawing power.

Clearly, the power supply doesn’t meet its demand.

Being a huge country, we’re pretty rich in resources. The only issue is their proper utilization. A geography project I did last year on non-conventional power resources made me realize how, with a little bit of organization and effort, our country could have an abundance of electricity.

Non-conventional power resources are resources that generate energy using wind, tides, biomass, sunlight, geothermal power and nuclear power. They are mostly renewable, and they do have their own disadvantages and advantages.

However, if someone looked into it carefully, utilizing these could really benefit us greatly.

For example, in rural areas, agricultural waste and domestic waste could be used to produce biogas, which could provide energy for an entire village, or maybe even more. It’d help urban areas too. We’ve also got barren areas where the wind blows fast, we’re surrounded by sea on three sides and we’re located majorly in the tropical zone so naturally we get a lot of sunlight.

I think you get the idea. Basically, those are just a few practical examples of what all we could use to generate power. Thanks to my project, I was just like, “Whaaa?! Why hasn’t anyone used all this yet? It’d make life so much easier!”

But, what interests me the most is solar energy.

Have you heard of the Rajiv Gandhi Renewable Energy Park located in Gurgaon? Apart from having Roots Café (which supposedly has very good aloo tikkis), it has a detailed display on reduction of energy consumption and utilization of renewable resources. The special thing about this place is that it’s off the Haryana Government electricity supply. Instead of getting power from there, all electricity there is generated through solar panels. That’s what fascinated me about it. Imagine the kind of money and electricity that could be saved if we could use the abundant sunshine that we get to produce energy!

Finally, at least one state government has realized this.

Since Bihar suffers so much of power shortage, its government has decided to promote the use of solar energy. According to Mr. Bijendra Prasad Yadav, the energy minister of Bihar, the government has conducted a survey which shows that there is tremendous scope for using sunlight to produce energy in the state. As stated by the World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE), Bihar receives about 280 days of sunshine and falls in the moderate solar radiation zone of the country.

Now, we know that there’s enough sunshine for the project to go big.

The advantages of solar energy is that it is clean, inexhaustible and cheap, but only once it is set up. Its biggest disadvantage is that the setting up of solar panels is costly and they occupy a lot of space. Also, the energy produced from sunlight is direct current (DC) but most appliances use alternating current (AC). To change DC to AC, an inverter is required.

I’m not going to bore you with the science behind it; this image basically explains how sunlight is converted into useable energy. Now, the issues are that the setting up of panels is expensive and they take up a lot of space. At the same time, if you invest in solar power, you save more in the long run, because once set up, you get a copious amount of energy for free.

To make the idea enticing, the Bihar government has devised a policy to support the use of solar energy. It has decided to exempt registration and entry taxes on installation of solar energy plants on wastelands.

That is a good idea, because it’s a tiny bit of the problem solved. If the government can persuade its people about the benefits of using this form of renewable energy, then this policy is sure to draw them in. It solves the space issue and makes the panels less costly.

To popularize this, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has gotten solar panels installed at his official residence. Hopefully, this should help make fashionable the use of clean energy.

Mr. Yadav says that proposals for generation of 250 MW via various solar power projects have been sent to the state cabinet. For starters, it could greatly help the current crises of energy which the state is facing.

It seems like a good going for one state. Hopefully, the proposition will be smoothly executed and will turn out to be immensely helpful. Maybe it’ll inspire other states to follow suit and study their topography carefully to see what kind of renewable resource would help them produce energy. Who knows? Perhaps finally, we’ll make full use of the natural gifts we already have, and combat power problems once and for all.

Every corner of the country will have light. We’d have next to no power cuts. Cheap energy for each and every citizen of India.

It may sound like a dream, but it’s really a goal we can achieve. All that it takes is planning. Let’s hope we get there in the near future.

Sanya Sharma

Image Courtsey [Sanya Sharma]