Agencies focus on educating customers, concept selling; demand for diesel generators is high too, writes S.Ganesan

With the increase in the load shedding duration over the past couple of months, more and more city residents are exploring options to go in for solar-powered back-up systems and diesel generators. As the power availability is insufficient to even recharge inverter batteries, residents say they are being forced to look for alternatives. So much so that a few dealers of solar-powered systems and even generators are conducting road shows in the city to market their products. Enquiries reveal that solar-powered systems are gaining a gradual foothold in the city though the market is still far from being termed hot. With some agencies coming up with offers to convert domestic inverters into solar-powered ones for as low as Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000, many are tempted to explore the option.

Many agencies, engaged in marketing regular inverters, say that they are supplying 120W solar panel for about Rs.15,000 provided the buyers already own an inverter and battery. This, they say, will be adequate to keep one light and a fan functional in a household.

However, knowledgeable sources in the industry are wary of such claims. “Buyers should be wary of such cheap options as they may not meet their requirements,” says a representative of an agency dealing in UPS systems. Besides, connecting regular inverters to solar panels could result in up to 30 per cent energy loss, they say.

Those in the industry feel that there are several misconceptions among people over solar-powered systems. “People tend to assume that they need a big area to put up the panels and in general there is a lack of awareness. We have to educate customers and are still in the process of concept selling. However, those who have gone for proper systems are happy with them,” says V.Ramaprasad, a representative of marketing agency of solar systems in the city.

For domestic systems, Mr.Ramaprasad said, the requirement of a household, in terms of the number of appliances, usage during day time and night, and other factors should be first taken into account. “Very often customer will not be able to give their exact requirement. The need and expectations could be different. We have to study the electricity consumption and assess the requirement of every household,” he says.

Generally, a household requires system with about 600W of solar panels and batteries which may roughly cost about Rs.1.50 to Rs.2 lakh but this could vary depending on the configurations, says Mr.Ramaprasad. But customers should educate themselves fully before going in for the systems, he insists. Arun Rebero, Director (operations), Contura Akshay Urja Shop, which is supported by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, agrees that consumers need to be educated and properly integrated systems will be absolutely trouble-free with a life of about 25 years. However, he feels that the market has been good given the good scope for tapping solar energy in the city. The shop, opened a few months ago, has already installed about 28 rooftop solar power installations in the city apart from selling various other solar-powered products such as lanterns, water heaters and fans. Mr.Rebero says that one kilo watt systems will cost about Rs.2.70 lakh and 30 per cent subsidy is offered by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Meanwhile, though the industry has been a baulking at the extra production cost involved in using diesel generators, dealers in the city say that there has been an increase in the demand. “Though we deal only with 10KVA generators and above, many enquiries are for lower capacity generators for domestic purposes. Over the past few months several individuals, hospitals/clinics, shopping malls and apartments have gone in for generators,” says R.Senthil, a generator dealer in the city.