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A panchayat in Kerala’s Ernakulam district has installed an 8 kW rooftop solar system in its office, hoping to halve its monthly electricity expenses.
The Koovappady panchayat will also join the list of carbon-neutral villages supported by the Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Technology (ANERT), an autonomous organization under the Kerala government’s Department of Power in the next few years.
Panchayat president Mini Babu told Mercom India, “I save ₹15,000 (~$192) or a little more every two months by doing this. In this effort, we save money and also do our bit in saving the planet.”
According to ANERT’s local coordinator Eldose Varghese, the grid-connected rooftop solar system will reduce the panchayat’s electricity bill by more than half. The rooftop solar system has a four-hour battery energy storage system.
When a village removes carbon dioxide equivalent to its emissions, it is qualified to be called carbon-neutral under ANERT’s plan.
“Using solar power for the panchayat office is just the beginning. We will use solar energy for the anganwadis, schools, hospitals, and other government buildings in the village before helping each household with solar systems,” says Mini Babu. Anganwadis are government-funded rural child care centers.
Koovappady has a population of over 30,000 people and nearly 7,500 households. Mini believes that the villagers will gain confidence after the panchayat successfully demonstrates the benefits of going solar. “When they see the panchayat office does not have power cuts after taking to solar, the people will be motivated.”
Mini set aside the panchayat’s savings of ₹495,000 (~$6,340) to install the solar panels. The amount met the cost of on-grid rooftop solar panels of 8 kW capacity after applying the 20% subsidy by the state government.
“The panchayat president felt this is a worthy investment. We facilitated the installation through a rooftop solar company Ecomate Energy Solutions,” Varghese said. The panchayat was spending over ₹25,000 (~$320) on bi-monthly bills to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).
ANERT is motivating gram panchayats to go for solar power generation. “We offer a 20% incentive to solar installations in government buildings. I am happy to see more villages getting interested in the project,” said Manu M.Venu, district engineer, Ernakulam, ANERT. He says Koovappady will inspire many more villages to adopt rooftop solar.
In February this year, ANERT invited expressions of interest from contractors to conduct a site survey to install solar power projects on public buildings under the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
In the recent State Budget, the Kerala government announced that it intends to replicate the model used in the Perinjanam panchayat in Thrissur District. Perinjanam became the first panchayat in India to install solar panels on household rooftops with the help of a cooperative bank, Solar Energy Corporation of India, and KSEB.