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Indian Govt. gives Rs 1.5 cr for solar lanterns

by Suman Chakraborti, TNN. Calcutta, 20 July 2009
Source: Times of India

The Centre has cleared Rs 1.5 crore for distributing 14,000 solar lanterns in the Aila-affected areas. This will give a major boost to the state government’s efforts to redevelop the affected villages in the Sunderbans.  West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC) managing director S P Gon Choudhuri said this was the first time the Centre has approved 100% grant for introducing solar lighting in a particular area.

“Each solar lantern will be equivalent to three kerosene lamps. That means, the 14,000 solar lanterns will serve the purpose of 42,000 kerosene lanterns. Again, each kerosene lantern consume three litre of kerosene per month. The initiative will lead to monthly saving of 1.26 lakh litre kerosene,” Gon Choudhuri said.

The solar lanterns will primarily be rolled out at hospitals, girls’ hostels, panchayat offices and police stations. “The lanterns will also be sent to camps that have been set up for Aila affected villagers,” he said. Around 20 companies that manufacture solar energy panels will be entrusted the job to send the solar lanterns to the Sunderbans.

WBGEDC had taken the initiative after Aila devastated villages in the Sunderbans to send solar lanterns to the most affected places.  The cyclone had washed away about 40,000 solar panels and damaged about 20 clusters of solar and biomass power plants that used to supply power to about 10,000 households at villages like Kumirmari, Lahiripur and Satjelia. Around 1,000 solar lanterns, christened Aila and costing Rs 900 each, was sent to the worst-hit villages free-of-cost to combat the crisis.

Later, WBGEDC authorities approached the Union renewable energy ministry to frame a package to restore lighting in Sunderbans.  A proposal was submitted that the ministry finally approved with cent percent grant. “The introduction of the high efficiency solar lanterns will help in emitting low carbon pollution,” Gon Choudhuri said.

With most of the Sunderbans yet to have access to grid connectivity, solar is the primary source of electricity in the islands. The area has the highest concentration of solar power installations in the country.