The world that is amazingly solar powered

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)….

Pics Followed:

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Lush green tea estates at Koppa
Solar street Light in front of the Town Hall, Koppa
Solar street Light in front of the Town Hall, Koppa
Solar panels on the Government Girls Hostel, Koppa
Solar panels on the Government Girls Hostel, Koppa
Solar Street Lighting near a water supply facility, Koppa
Solar Street Lighting near a water supply facility, Koppa
One of the oldest street Lights done by SELCO at Koppa
One of the oldest street Lights done by SELCO at Koppa
Shama Nursing Home has solar lighting all through the hospital.
Shama Nursing Home has solar lighting all through the hospital.
Solar Lighting in my room,  Koppa
Solar Lighting in my room, Koppa
Little Children studying under a solar light - Govt Boys Hostel, Koppa
Little Children studying under a solar light – Govt Boys Hostel, Koppa
Solar Street Lighting at Town Panchayat Building, Koppa
Solar Street Lighting at Town Panchayat Building, Koppa
Solar Light at the Koppa Town Panchayat Building
Solar Light at the Koppa Town Panchayat Building
Solar Garden Lighting in a park at Koppa
Solar Garden Lighting in a park at Koppa
Solar Indoor Lighting at a Textile showroom at Koppa
Solar Indoor Lighting at a Textile showroom at Koppa

 

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SELCO Visit – Day 1 – A travellers perspective

It all started when Harsha, who looks after projects across South Karnataka proposed that we go on a branch visit to Kumta and Shimoga for two days, starting Monday night… Since it was my first branch visit, I was excited about it. My role in the visit was nothing but to see what happens in the branches, get to know the people, see their work and visit a few clients for enquiries (along with Harsha).

We were on schedule, boarded the sleeper at Majestic by 9:00PM, and I started getting my share of SELCO knowledge from Harsha about projects at SELCO, mission projects, about Harish and many more (which by the way was just awesome)…

We reached Kumta by 7:00 AM and to describe Kumta, it is totally different in most ways from any place I’ve visited. The sedimentary rocks they use to build everything, those amazing two-storied tiled houses with huge compounds, a variety of indigenous short breed of cattle, the bowls they use to serve water at hotels and houses (yes, they use bowls to serve water), the sambar they make…

We reached the branch office which is right under the hotel we were in, got introduced to many people at the SELCO branch. The people were very friendly, and then the real trouble came in. ”Kannada”. Every one of them spoke in Kannada for the next three hours, where I had to ask Harsha at regular intervals on what was the point of discussion. All I could figure out was the English words they used like ”inverters”, ”solar”, ”watts” and a few Kannada words like “maad beku” and ”hut beku”…

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We then, around 11:30, started to Ankola, a place around 40 KMs from Kumta to visit a client and propose him some changes in the design we’ve given him already. We 4 people started on two bikes; here comes the best part of my trip. We crossed Kumta, then Hegde, and there came a scenic place where I was excited to see what lay ahead of me.

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A very replica of Konaseema in Andhra Pradesh (the delta area formed by the Godavari at the mouth of the sea) lay right in front of me, the river Aghanashini cutting its way through the mountains and running towards the sea, forming many islands and delta with thick forests. The best way to experience it is to see it with one’s own eyes.

We had to cross the river to reach the other side, there lay boats that could transit both people and bikes. Sufficient to transport 4 to 5 bikes and around 10 people, these boats connect two sides of the river.

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Travel on boats to cross the river was a first time experience to me, and the scenic beauty this area possessed was amazing. Small fishing yachts that moved along the river, small canoes local fishermen used to catch fish and transit, long boats being rowed only by women, islands formed by the river, one has to experience it.

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On the way to Ankola, we had to travel across the Ghats to reach the other side, crossed the Gangavali river on a bridge that finds its way through the gorges and then to the sea.

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Ankola was very similar to Kumta. We reached a one Shetty’s house, our client who has agreed to install a solar light system for his new shopping complex that is under construction. Again for a couple of hours, I felt myself to be alien as the conversation went in Kannada. All I had to do is to wait for a few English words and try to make up what they were speaking (though Harsha later briefed me up about everything that they spoke). We had our lunch and found our way back to Kumta by 4:00PM.

Another best part of the trip was the SELCO people who were very friendly and happy to help kind. Santosh Naik anna – the Sales Executive, “Buttru” Ramachandra Butt – the Branch Manager, Ravi anna – the Office Assistant, and many more unnamed people who were around me.

We then boarded a bus around 5:00PM to Shimoga, only to miss the scenic Western Ghats beauty since we had to travel during the night across the Ghats…

Contd…. (day 2)