Power cut in the evening or night hours does not engulf the streets of JJ Nagar, a residential area with 120 houses about 10 km from Coimbatore city, in darkness. Nearly 90 per cent of the population here are daily wage earners and do not have uninterrupted power supply systems or generators. But, JJ Nagar has harnessed renewable energy.
A couple of months ago, 10 street lights in the panchayat were connected to a 500 watt solar system.
Rain or shine, the lights turn on between 6 p.m. and 6.15 p.m. and remain switched on till 6 a.m. every day.
JJ Nagar is among the 42 THAI (Tamil Nadu Village Habitations Improvement Scheme) villages in the district selected in 2011-2012 for energisation of streetlights through solar power, a scheme implemented by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA).
Each of these villages has 500 watt solar panels and a central system connected to 10 LED street lights (each 20 watts).
Arasur panchayat president A.V. Govindaraj, another village in the district that has solar-powered street lights, says the panchayat has 800 street lights in 12 villages and 10 lights have come under the solar system now. It does not require much maintenance.
Malumichampatti panchayat president M. Shanmugham says people in the Adi-Dravida settlement, near JJ Nagar, also seek solar-powered street lights now. The Government can give 50 per cent subsidy and the panchayat can pool in the remaining funds to have more solar-powered street lights in the villages.
An official of TEDA here says that 42 more villages in the district will get the system this year (2012-2013) and two of these will have all the street lights under the solar system.
The system is different from the street lights that have standalone solar panels. Manpower is not required to turn on and switch off the lights every day.
If there is not adequate sunlight, the streetlights will be energised by grid power. If there is no grid power and sunlight too, the battery can store the solar energy generated for three days, the official says.
According to Ashish Sethi, General Manager – Solar Business of Su-Kam Power Systems, the company that has executed the project in the district, theft of batteries is common and hence, in the cluster streetlight system, the power conditioning unit and battery are housed in a single cabinet and locked.
The ordinary lights in the select poles are replaced with LED lights. Just four sq.mt in a shadow free area is required in the village and the hybrid system works on solar and thermal.
The company will maintain the sites for five years. The feedback was good and panchayats such as Odanthurai have contacted the company and enquired the details of the system for a pilot project.
42 more villages
in Coimbatore district will get the system this year (2012-2013)