Escalating electricity bills and frequent power interruptions have made alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power an attractive option for many.

Use of solar energy is in the priority list of many households. However, lack of availability of solar panels to replace the electrical equipments in the retail market and few players in the industry have resulted in limited adoption.

D. A. Rajan, a resident of Teynampet, says “I installed a solar water heater a decade ago. I not only saved one-third of my electricity bill but also recovered the capital cost within three years.” Based on the cost efficiency of the solar water heater, he has installed solar lights.

For solar equipment to last long, regular maintenance of the system is necessary. People consider the delay in recovery cost as one of the drawback for the poor patronage, he added.

According to manufacturers, with more players stepping into the field, price of solar products was bound to dip.

K.E.Raghunathan, Managing Director, Solkar Solar Industry, says that the cost of solar panels has dropped from Rs.250-Rs.300 per watt to Rs.120-Rs.140 per watt in the past two years. This has been reflected in the dip in prices of solar products.

As Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs have replaced Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), the amount of solar energy required for sufficient lighting has also come down, resulting in a drop in prices, he said.

Solar power technology is also catching up in educational institutions owing to competitive price, subsidy and loan at attractive interest, he added.

M. Sekar, Dean, College of Engineering, Guindy, says that an in-house solar plant has been proposed to be installed within two or three months. “It will take care of the power requirements of the mess and the main building. We already have solar-powered lights all over the campus. The government subsidy for renewable energy installations is attractive.”

Many government agencies, including Chennai Corporation, are trying out solar power on trial basis. Officials of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board said that solar power generation would improve in the State in two or three years.

Seven solar power-generating agencies have come forward with proposals to generate seven megawatt each of renewable energy under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in the State.

The tariff of Rs.18.44 per unit for purchase of the power generated has attracted the private players. Proposals for setting up solar plants capable of generating 250 MW might materalise in three to four years, the TNEB official said.

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