Rural electrification can sometimes be meaningless…
It requires considerable skill to bike up the winding, treacherous slope to Khandwawadi, a hamlet about 5 km from the main village and right at the top of the plateau or pathaar. Coming down without skidding off the muddy slope makes the upward journey look like a beginner’s track!
Although there is electricity in this hamlet, many homes have chosen to not get connected, because of very poor voltages. The power cables have been stretched so far from the hamlets at the bottom of the pathaar, that there are huge transmission losses and eventually, the light from electric bulbs is at best only marginally better than candlelight! Add to this the long, unpredictable power cuts, and the huge demand here for alternate forms of lighting is no surprise.
But some weeks back, we spent a night at Pandurang Bhor’s house and things had definitely changed. Equipped with a Solar Home light, he now proudly welcomes people to his home in the evenings for a cup of tea. Two 200 lumen fixtures are placed in his kitchen and living/bedroom and illuminate the whole house very well.
The Solar Home light system also comes equipped with a mobile phone charger, which has become hugely popular amongst his neighbours.
The reliable lighting, no monthly bill payment, minimal maintenance and the no-questions-asked-warranty worked out with the vendors, and not to forget, the mobile charger have made Solar Home lights an instant hit.
- As with all solar systems, clear, sunny days are great, but efficiency comes down on cloudy, rainy days. But in the case of Solar Street and Home lights, the batteries continue charging in a trickle fashion at least, even on the most overcast days.
- One of the chief challenges is ensuring timely maintenance and replacement. Despite seeking the best suppliers in the market, we have found that these systems are not fail-proof. Our clients are located in remote hamlets with little or no access to public transport; mobile phone networks are also not available in some of these places. So even communicating a problem takes time.
“Before we got these Solar lights, I had to walk 7-8 kilometres to the fair price shop to buy kerosene… and wait for hours – sometimes, in hot sun or in pouring rain- and after waiting for so long, there were times when the shop would close! Sometimes, I had to make 2 or 3 trips as there was no way of knowing whether the shop had kerosene in stock or not. But now the Solar lights have freed from these kerosene issues.” - Rohini Hande, Wankute, Ahmednagar District