Around 200 buildings in Auroville have stand-alone solar power panels.
For the past six years, Rishi Kapoor has been paying only Rs. 20 as his electricity bill. He operates a washing machine, television, refrigerator and lights and fans using solar power.
“You have to buy equipment smartly. Inverter models use up to 40 per cent less than five-star rated equipment. I also run an air-conditioner for three hours in the afternoon during peak summer,” he adds.
Rishi’s house in Auroville is among the 200-odd buildings that have stand-alone solar power panels. These buildings put together produce about 400 Kilo Watt of electricity from roof top solar installations that is used by the producers themselves.
Auroville has been a forerunner in solar energy production. There are many buildings that have solar-powered water heaters and wind mills.
The Pavilion of Tibetan Culture in International Zone has a solar water heater as they get a lot of students staying with them regularly. Kalsang Dolma said that there was a time when they didn’t have power supply for 17 hours, which forced them to shift gear to solar power.
What more, a few buildings also supply power to the grid. The Auroville Foundation office inside the Town Hall premises is an example of this. The roof top solar power plant sitting atop the Foundation office supplies 15 kilo watt of power to the electricity grid. “The office remains closed during weekends, which means we do not require that power and so we send it to the grid,” explained Toine Van Megen, Co-Founder, Auroville Consulting.
This plant and eight others that have a combined capacity of 100 kilo watt are connected to the grid.
“These were installed on a pilot basis. We started off with a residential building and a school and expanded to more buildings,” explained Mr. Megan, who has been associated with the Tamil Nadu government in creation of the solar energy policy.
His input led to roof top solar plants being included in the policy.
“The idea is to make almost every consumer a producer, making them a prosumer. Every kilo watt/hour that is produced through solar energy means that much is not taken from the grid,” he said.