Solar energy, in a limited way, has started powering telecom towers, bank branches, data centres and ATMs in power deficient rural India and areas faced with erratic supply of grid power.

Companies providing equipment for power back-up and solar power producers have confirmed that this trend is catching up with support from government as well as telecom companies and banks which are opting for clean and uninterrupted energy.

“We are providing solar inverters of smaller ratings to ATMs. More than ATMs, our concentration is bank branches. At present, the adoption of solar power in the banking sector is at a nascent stage, but it is aggressively picking up,” Sunil Khanna, President and Managing Director, Emerson Network Power, told The Hindu.

Asked to quantify the number of ATMs running on solar power, he said: “It will be difficult to give a number, but one can expect solar power ATMs to populate Tier-3 and Tier-4 cities in the near future. We see great business potential in this sector going ahead. Some of the ATMs that are running are located in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.”

He said in the banking sector there had been a shift from traditional data centres to data centres in a box which were cost-effective solutions and fell in the realm of ‘plug and play’. In rural areas, solar energy was being preferred to run data centres, he added.

Emerson Network Power, a part of $24.7 billion American conglomerate Emerson, is into back-up power system, among others.

More than banks, telecom companies have adopted solar energy to power telecom towers.

“At present, we are powering more than 20 telecom towers and by April1 2014, the number will go up to 40. From one micro solar power plant site, we are powering three towers of different companies,” Sushil Jiwarajka, Chairman, Omnigrid Micropower Co. Pvt. Ltd., told The Hindu. He said his company, a micro power producer, had been setting up solar power plants costing about Rs.75 lakh in inaccessible areas targeting telecom towers as anchor customers.

“We are providing surplus power to banks, schools, petrol pumps and even households in the locality to make our project viable,” he added. Omnigrid, which has now solar plants in Uttar Pradesh, is gearing up to enter Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, North East, Madhya Pradesh and J&K which face acute power shortage.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) requirement for telecom companies to use renewable sources of energy for powering 50 per cent of their telecom towers in rural areas is helping.

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