When was to go on a visit to Koppa on SELCO work, I wikied about it. A place in the Western Ghats with scenic beauty everywhere, lush green tea and coffee estates and the ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’ is what I read. But there is little or no mention about those amazingly sweet people and a silent revolution that has been in progress, very much unaware to the outside world. That revolution of turning towards sustainable solar energy for lighting and heating, thereby reducing its dependency on the grid. This little town can be a perfect example of how one can reduce being dependent on the grid and lead a happy life. Oh yes, these people don’t have to curse the others during power cuts. Don’t have to blame the government for not providing enough of it. Don’t have to sit down in the darkness and don’t have to study under the candle light. Don’t have to cook with a kerosene lamp on. Don’t have to suffer and hence be very happy while the others cry.
They have their own source of power. That never will die out. Can draw as much as you ‘need‘ (not ‘want‘. There is a difference, ask Harish Hande). Live a happy life. Yes, that amazing source is the sun and the way most tap it there, is SELCO.
Before I started to Koppa, I knew it has a SELCO service center (not a branch). I knew I was visiting the place to look at the street lighting project SELCO has implemented there. So I had this imagination that Koppa is a small hamlet in the mountains with a few houses, one street light at the center of the village and we could claim that SELCO has brought light to the lives of these unprivileged people.
As I reached Koppa the next morning, I understood that Koppa isn’t so small as I thought, I then met a lovely and sweet Mr. Vasanth anna, working for the branch (he later took me around those amazing tea, coffee and pepper estates around Koppa). As we were about to start to the hotel, he said to me. “Sir, I give you an option of two hotels. One, a normal hotel, the other one has its lighting and water heating powered by solar energy”. I said, “Why not go to the second one?”
The hotel lighting is powered by the solar panels installed above the building and water heating too. After refreshing, I went to a restaurant right opposite my hotel for breakfast, surprised only to see solar lighting there too. A chat with the owner Mr. Narasimha revealed that he had installed only solar lighting in his restaurant before two years and said that he is very happy with the performance of it. “Tumba Chanaagide. Very satisfied”, were his exact words.
Vinay anna then took me around to show a few solar installations SELCO has made in Koppa. Amazingly, I observed that most of the town has solar installations. A government hostel for girls has solar lighting installed. As I spoke to the warden of the hostel, she said, “Solar lighting is of great help to us. With the grid power so irregular, it wasn’t safe for the girls due to lack of any light. Now as we have solar installed, we stopped worrying about grid power, there is better safety and the girls can also study in peace”.
Koppa municipality administration also seems to play an active role in promoting solar energy as a main (not alternate) source of energy. The municipality is highly active and has already installed 100-110 solar street lights across the town. With the maintenance costs very low, the life span being very high and the advantage of not paying the power bills for street lights, they favor street lighting over conventional lighting. The parks have solar powered garden lights, the community hall, temples, what not, many of them are powered by the sun. Now, as the sun goes away, these lights come to life (thanks to the dawn to dusk sensor, one doesn’t have to switch them on manually).
A number of hospitals too have opted for solar lighting and heating. Dr. Ravish Kamat, a children specialist says, “We now have one less thing to worry about and our pockets are heavier since we’ve eliminated the use of a generator”. He has installed lighting and heating systems for his nursing home and a 1KW UPS system to power his X-Ray and other machines.
Many people have begun using solar energy, most of them done by SELCO. But are they happy with it? There has been one unanimous response. Yes. Everyone I spoke to, is very happy about the choice they made. Solar works great for lighting and heating. I was always doubtful if solar works during monsoon season, especially in a place like Koppa, where monsoon means very less sunlight. The customers amazingly have assured me that these work even during rains(The Manager of Sakleshpur Planters Club also shared the same view).
Koppa is one great example where solar energy is successfully implemented as main source of power for lighting and heating. The local body and people have realized the advantages of shifting to solar and also made sure they implemented it. With this level of awareness, anyone ever would’nt have to crib about power shortage and blame the government about it. A little part from the government is expected too, by providing more subsidies to people turning towards green energy (or atleast speeding up the process of exisiting subsidy policies). It can be a win-win solution where both people and government are happy, people because they got wat they need and the government because it faces less public resistance for not catering to their needs (hey gov guys, you could win another term, think about it)….
- Solar lighting at Koraput hospital in Odisha (panchabuta.com)
- CSR or Corporate Solar Responsibility (panchabuta.com)