Can Mysore show the way in promoting renewable energies? Can the city become a model for other cities in Karnataka to harness the untapped energy of the sun? The reason for raising such questions is obvious: Mysore has been chosen by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for being developed into a ‘solar city.'

The project focuses on reducing the total demand for conventional energy (by at least 10 per cent) by adopting and encouraging non-conventional energies such as solar energy.

Mysore City Corporation (MCC), which has been identified as the agency for implementing the initiative by launching a solar city cell on its premises, is expected to team up with private players in the next few months as the modalities are being worked out.

The use of solar water-heating systems, solar home-lighting systems, solar streetlight control systems, power projects based on urban waste and bio-mass gasification etc., would get thrust under the project, according to MCC.

A Mumbai-based consultant is aiding the MCC by suggesting methods that are necessary to be incorporated for implementing the renewable energy initiatives with prime focus on solar energy. The plan prepared by the consultant comprising the modes to be adopted for implementing the ‘solar city' project is expected to be ready in the next few days.

The MCC, the consultant and the stakeholders recently had discussions on the draft project plan and suggestions had been given for making it more effective. Local administrations such as the MCC would get support from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for preparation and implementation of roadmaps for the promotion of the use of renewable energy resources in urban areas under the project.

Technical support

If everything goes as per the plan, Mysore, according to MCC, would be developed into a ‘solar city' by 2015. The work on implementing the technologies of renewable energy would begin before March next year. The Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd. (KREDL) is providing technical support for the Sproject.

In a chat with The Hindu , MCC Commissioner K.S. Raikar said solar energy initiatives such as solar lighting in offices, particularly public offices, and solar street lights (street lights are maintained by the MCC) would get emphasis.

Support would be sought from the stakeholders for minimising the consumption of conventional energy by jointly launching solar energy projects with the nod from the Ministry. There are plans to harness solar energy to meet the energy needs of prominent heritage buildings and important government offices such as those of the deputy commissioner and regional commissioner and the Mysore City Corporation.

The project will look at persuading people and local bodies to adopt renewable energy so that dependence on conventional energy is reduced. Therefore, sustainable energy options through public-private partnerships would be promoted.

The MCC is in talks with the University of Mysore to getting its approval for setting up a renewable energy park and a biogas plant on its campus under the project. “The campus produces a lot of biomass which can be used for producing biogas. A demonstrative renewable energy park on the campus will help us to educate the people for going green for meeting the energy needs. Solar lighting is one the important alternatives,” the Commissioner said.

Motivating factor

The majestic Mysore Palace has caught the imagination of the people who are driving the non-conventional energy technologies. An ambitious plan of harnessing solar energy to illuminate the city's most famous monument, which is completing its centenary in 2012, on all days, has been mooted.

“If this becomes a reality, the palace will be illuminated 365 days a year,” the Commissioner feels. The belief is that the palace would get more tourists if it is lit up on all days of the week instead of restricting the illumination to weekends and public holidays.

Experts in the area of non-conventional energy have been asked to examine whether it is feasible to do so, considering the importance and value of the palace in the country's tourist circuit.

Says Mr. Raikar: “The Centre has assured funds for proposals submitted under the solar city project. Hence, our consultant has been asked to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) including the plan of harnessing solar energy for illuminating the palace.”

Rs. 160 cr. needed

He said the Centre funds nearly 35 per cent of the project cost. It has been estimated that Rs. 160 crore will be required to take the palace project forward. However, experts in solar energy initiatives feel that the estimates prepared are on the higher side and that the project could be executed at a lesser cost. “Experts have suggested that Rs. 40 crore would be enough to take the project through,” the Commissioner said.

Sources said the Mysore Palace Board spends about Rs. 80 lakh to Rs. 90 lakh every year towards illumination. It pays approximately Rs. 80,000 to the electricity supply company for illuminating the palace for an hour. Though 40-watt bulbs were used in the past, the authorities switched over to 15-watt bulbs [1,00,000] to overcome circuit burnout and reduce consumption of conventional energy.

The Board came under pressure when Greenpeace launched a “Ban the Bulb” campaign in many countries, including India. It was said Mysore Palace consumed close to 1,20,000 kWh of electricity a year. The Board recently replaced some of the lightings (not the bulbs) with LED bulbs to minimise energy consumption.

The revised estimates will be submitted soon. “If we [the MCC] get a commitment from either the Department of Tourism or the Department of Kannada and Culture for funding the remaining cost (the Centre funds 35 per cent), we shall pursue the project of illuminating the palace harnessing solar energy with the MNRE,” according to Mr. Raikar.

The Palace Board has decided against rushing through with replacing incandescent bulbs with light emitting diode (LED) bulbs to bring down energy consumption. Since it was not fully “satisfied” with the effect of LED lighting as compared to incandescent bulbs, the Board replaced the light fittings to reduce energy consumption and bills. The proposal for the replacement of conventional bulbs with LED bulbs is pending before the Board. It is looking for the colour and shade that matches the existing golden hue from the incandescent bulbs.

The palace, built in Indo-Sarcenic style, comes alive when it is illuminated with over one lakh specially-manufactured incandescent (15 watt) bulbs. The bulbs fixed in a synchronised pattern are switched on at one go, making it a breathtaking sight.

According to KREDL, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) has issued regulations to ensure that 0.25 per cent of the power consumed is from solar resources. Moreover, the Union Government has decided that 0.25 per cent of energy consumption should be from solar resources, which would go up to 3 per cent by 2022.

Also, under the Karnataka Renewable Energy Policy, the State has been given a target of achieving 126 MW of solar power (including the power that the State is expected to get under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission-JNNSM) by 2013-2014, according to the draft policy.

SHANKAR BENNUR

There are plans to harness solar energy to meet the energy needs of heritage buildings and government offices in Mysore