Chendamangalam is attempting to become Kerala’s first solar powered panchayat.

The little panchayat of Chendamangalam in North Parur, a prominent site in the Muziris Heritage Project, boasts of rich history and the remnants of a glorious past. The whole panchayat now has another reason to celebrate. It is involved in a project that will make it the first completely solar-powered panchayat in the State, according to Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (CDIT) sources.

The initiative came from CDIT and the lucky break came with the decision of IIT Mumbai to support the project. The technological backing needed is being provided by these sources along with support from the KSEB, the panchayat, Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT), Energy Management Centre Kerala (EMC), and the State Planning Board. This has given the project a huge boost. “This project is a continuation of our attempts to promote Green Technology .CDIT had already undertaken the unique programme ‘Green Kerala Express’, a social reality show on television. Added to this was the implementation of ‘Surya Keralam’, an extensive solar power programme to harness 1000 MW in the coming two years. The Sainik School at Kazhakkoottam, Thiruvananthapuram, is now in the process of shifting to solar power. Legislator V. D.Satheesan and Mani Teacher, the Gram Panchayat President have been very encouraging,” says K. Mohan Kumar, Deputy Director, CDIT.

Survey

The panchayat was bustling with activity and excitement the other day when the initial survey for data collection was held. It roped in around 140 first year engineering students from the Federal Institute of Science and Technology (FISAT), Angamaly, 65 students from Sree Narayana Guru Institute of Science and Technology (SNGIST), North Parur, Kudumbasree workers, and 2,000 students from Paliam HSS, Karimpadam DD Sabha High School, Chathedam St. Joseph’s HS, and Gothuruthu St Sebastian’s HSS.

They were formed into teams under a ward member or a teacher to collect data mainly on the current consumption of electricity. An energy survey undertaken of all houses, buildings, hospitals, government offices and similar places of an entire panchayat was the first of its kind in India. Electricity bills were made available to the children to peruse, householders answered their questions regarding the consumption of power, they located spacious areas to install the solar panels, queries about the difference in energy consumption during climate changes were answered, and all agreed that the concept was totally acceptable to them. This pilot project, they hope, will come up with a blueprint for a programme which will eventually turn every panchayat solar powered.

Dr. N. C.Narayan, IIT Mumbai, says: “Chendamangalam panchayat was an appropriate choice. The project is a combination of two things – of what technology can do to the power demand today and the supply options. So, we need a setting to meet the demand and hence it’s not just a supply enhancing option alone. Demand management is the core of the project.”

Encouraging factor

The most encouraging factor about the project is the general awareness it has created among the common man – awareness regarding the conservation of power and the need for producing more power. Dr. Narayan adds, “The project is more than just one to spread awareness, especially among the students. It is an educational project to learn about their environment. The data they have collected will be analysed to design appropriate solutions, and tap into alternative sources of power like solar panels.”

What is encouraging for the panchayat is that a beginning has been made. With all the local enthusiasm, participation and technological backing, things are bound to see the light of day. Well begun is half done, they say. Dr. Anil Kottantharayil, asst. professor, Electrical and Engineering Dept, IIT Mumbai, agrees, “The National Centre for Photovoltaic Research and Education (NCPRE) at IIT Mumbai, has helped design this project. The shortage of power that stares us in the face has spurred this project. Things have had a head start at Chendamangalam. There is every promise of this pilot project meeting with the success expected.”

When that happens, as it should, hopefully in one year, Chendamangalam will go down in history as a completely solar powered panchayat and will also have set the lead for the rest of the country.