Many rural areas in India have no access to electricity, and the largest of these are often the rural poor and their school children. In response to such conditions affecting the night studies and other activities of school children in remote rural communities, the project ‘Localization of Solar Energy through Local Assembly, Sale and Usage of one Million Solar Urja Lamps (SoUL)’, initiated by IIT Bombay aims to empower populations in underserved communities, through high quality programs that meet their real needs to improve the quality of their lives. IIT Bombay has received a sanction from the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance’s National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) through the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for distributing one Million solar lamps to several states across India.
The solar study lamps will enhance school children’s daily night studies, exams preparation, homework and other educational programs. It provides numerous health, educational, environmental, and other effective benefits, including eliminating kerosene lanterns and wood fires that produce noxious fumes that are inhaled by such children thus causing health hazards to their lungs and eyes.
The specific objectives of the project “Localization of Solar Energy through Local Assembly, Sale and Usage of 1 Million Solar Urja Lamps (SoUL)” are:
- Localization in assembly, distribution and service of high quality study lamps
• Distribution of 1 Million SoULs to 1 Million students in rural India through the model of block saturation, in a time bound manner
• Research on the impact of solar technology on various socio-economic indicators at the grassroot level
The various outcomes expected of this project include:
• Improvement in attendance and performance of students in schools
• Reduction in school dropout rate and illiteracy
• Reduction in kerosene consumption
• Employment generation and entrepreneurship development
• Awareness about use and capability of solar photovoltaic technology and products
The total funds for this project is contributed by three partners: 36% from the National Clean Energy Funds (NCEP), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India; 40% from various philanthropic partners including state governments, trusts, corporate social responsibilities, and individuals and 24% comes directly from the student beneficiaries.
The total cost of the Solar Urja Lamp (SoUL) is Rs 500 but student gets this lamp at student discounted price of Rs 120, the break-up of which is illustrated in Chart 1.
The solar lamps are assembled locally, used by local people and serviced by the locals. By transferring technical skills and knowledge and training locals to use technology, they cease to become dependent on anyone. Local assembly not only results in employment generation, but also allows the locals themselves to repair and maintain the solar products in the future. This local repairing capability will help increase product lifetime, and eventually, build confidence in solar Photovoltaic (PV) technology.