As you travel along the Patna-Gaya NH83 highway, you come across the district of Jehanabad.
Located in the Naxal heartlands of Bihar, under the Makhdumpur block of this district you can’t help but notice a surprisingly bright yellow sign which says “Dharnai – Solar Village 1KM“.
Since the past, more than, 30 years or so, the village of Dharnai had not seen electricity. This small village consists of more than 350 households who have been literally living in the dark ages.
The village had been electrified earlier, but had lost its infrastructure after the installed transformer got burnt (and never repaired) and the cables were stolen subsequently.
The people in Dharnai were dependent solely on diesel generators, which were not only expensive to run but also a very unreliable source of power. Not to mention the detrimental environmental effects diesel generators cost.
The other means of energy sources were, using cow dung, firewood, and kerosene lamps for cooking and lighting.
Dharnai, however, is not alone. The Central grid-based system in the state has failed to supply electricity to around 19000 such villages in Bihar.
And this is not the case only in the state of Bihar. Surveys have shown that more than 300 million people in India still await electricity. An estimated 45% of rural India lives without proper electricity.
In the later part of 2013, Greenpeace India announced the launch of its revolutionary rural electrification micro-grid project for the village of Dharnai. This project was to involve about 100 KW of solar panels planned to supply affordable and sustainable electricity to Dharnai.
Greenpeace, along with its partners CEED (Centre for Environment and Energy Development) and BASIX (A Livelihood Promotion Institute) came up with this idea of setting up power generation systems using the Decentralized Renewable Energy Systems (DRES).
Over the past year or so, these organizations have worked extensively in Dharnai to install solar micro-grids all over the village. Finally in August 2014, Dharnai managed to declare its independence from darkness and anonymity.
Now, the village boasts of a comprehensive system which is built to provide electricity to more than 450 households and around 50 commercial establishments. The 100 KW Generation is split into 70 KW for electricity supply and 30 KW for 10 solar powered water pumping stations (3 HP each).
This ambitious project, costing approximately Rs. 3 Crore, has been up and running since the last 4 months and is also catering to around 60 odd street lights, two village schools, one health center and one Farmer’s training center.
This micro-grid has been set up with due approvals of the people of Dharnai and is flexible to be expanded to meet the increasing requirements of the people in the coming years with minimum costs.
This project has completely changed the lifestyle of the people of Dharnai, most of who have gone on record to emphasize the difference.
Appeals have now been made to the State Government to consider such projects in the other rural pockets of Bihar. Something, which seems to be gathering momentum, as the proposal is up for consideration.
One section of the population of Dharnai however is still looking at the Government to give them “Real Electricity and not artificial one”.
However, with the way people are moving towards alternate sources of energy generation, perhaps Dharnai is far ahead than everyone else, without them even realizing it, as yet.
This little known village, from one of the least developed states in India has lit up the path for many others like them by becoming the first and perhaps the only village of its kind in the country, till now, which runs completely on solar power.
Despite a limited amount of private funding, it took only one year for this project, from its conceptualization, to develop into a sustainable source of energy for the entire village.
One can only imagine the amount of development that can happen in this area if the Government takes up this idea on a much larger and a more serious scale.
Not only would the impact of such projects on the environmental aspects and conservation of natural resources be significant, but we would also be looking at a much cheaper source of power generation in the longer run.
As Thomas Alva Edison said “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Disclaimer: There are numerous villages which are getting into the process of such generation of Alternative Energies in India. Hopefully this will be something which is encouraged by one and all.