Lighting Up Lives

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Being a power deficit state despite generating enough to light up the valley, people are opting for alternatives. Rahiba R Parveen reports how people are switching to solar energy to compensate the power shortfalls

Solar-Energy

The winter season in Kashmir is synonym to power deficit and people over the years have been exploring various alternatives to make up to the lack of much needed power.

Till a few years back people used to rely on kerosene and gas lamps for lighting purpose. But with prices of both kerosene and domestic gas skyrocketing people began exploring alternatives like solar energy.

In past few years, the concept of solar energy which was hardly heard of in Kashmir has now been accepted and adapted at a large scale.  The government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy together have supplied several solar lighting systems to people in the remotest areas.   Several health centers, hospitals and education institutes too have installed solar panels on their roof tops, mostly to get hot water supply. And now it is the common man who is turning to solar lights in the households.

Parvez Shah, a Srinagar based distributor for solar lighting and heating equipments says that in last two years he has installed over 2000 equipments in the city alone. “There is huge surge in demand for solar energy in last few years as people are fed up of power cuts,” says Shah.

The solar equipments across the valley are distributed by few who import them from the manufacturers of different states. Parvez Shah has been involved in distribution from two and a half years. He says there is a huge demand in the market due to which they often run short of material. “As much as people are becoming aware of solar generated electric power and its other advantages they are getting attracted to buy it. While we have done big projects, we also have catered to 2000 households in the city,” Shah added.

Sheikh Adil, a resident of Srinagar has set up 150 watts of solar power lighting system in his house. The level of satisfaction has been such that he has helped five of his peers to buy it for their homes. “We have read about this form of energy in class 10 but seldom do we apply such knowledge practically. Since the time we bought solar lights to our home, there has been no fuss during the power cuts. A lot of other resources are saved with its help,” said Adil who pressed for the need of awareness about it.

There are two divisions of solar energy devices available in the market currently. One is Thermal division for solar water heating system and another is the photovoltaic division which includes solar module, solar charge controller, solar battery and solar hybrid inverter.

The thermal division is facilitated through ‘flat plate collector’ for commercial use and ‘evacuated tube solar collector’ for domestic purpose. It is circulated with a huge demand in the market.

The Jhelum Valley College of Medical Sciences has set up 25,000 litres of ‘Flat Plate Collector’ for water heating. Shah has handled the entire project for the girls and boys hostel, and dining section of the institution.   The other projects involve the famous spots like the Srinagar Golf Course, Bemina Degree College, Hostel of the Government Medical College and Gulmarg.

In a bid to promote usage of solar power and help people to combat recurrent power cuts, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank in collaboration with the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD)is providing 40 per cent subsidy to people for purchasing solar lighting facility and 60 per cent for solar water heating systems.

Rayees Ahmed, another city based distributor says solar lights even work in places with minus temperature. “It just needs light for charging.”

As long as the sky is not completely cloudy, the panel catches the light to get charged. “However Kashmir is an exception, the MNRE has approved the modification in solar hybrid inverters where they can also be put on direct power back up. This has added to its market,” he said.

In this direction, the MNRE headed by Farooq Abdullah has sanctioned over 50000 solar home systems for the 225 un-electrified villages and hamlets of the State. The state government with the help of MNRE has installed several Solar Power Plants generating energy in Kilowatts, across the state.

Though the valley is yet to have a large scale Solar Power Plant with capacity in Megawatts, the concerned authorities say it is the biggest challenge which can combat larger issues like that of heating.

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