Solar power to light up Mankulam panchayat

A Correspondent

Solar units to be installed in 1,786 households

KSEB supplies power to only 400 houses

100 per cent subsidy provided to households

KATTAPPANA: With the completion of a Central scheme for electrification of remote grama panchayats on March 25, a total of 1,786 houses in Mankulam grama panchayat in Idukki district will be electrified through the installation of solar power units. It was a major scheme undertaken by the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) in the grama panchayat.

The unique terrain and remoteness of many areas in the panchayat have made it difficult to draw power supply lines.

Already solar panels have been installed in 1,300 houses. The grama panchayat authorities hope that solar panels can be installed in all houses before the last date for the completion of the scheme.

Mankulam grama panchayat president Valsamma Shaji told The Hindu on Monday that the panchayat had already given power connection to households, shops and business establishments according to priority. She said that lack of power connection had been a major problem faced by the grama panchayat since its bifurcation from the Munnar grama panchayat about a decade ago.

The Kerala State Electricity Board supplies electricity to 400 households in the grama panchayat, which is far below the demand. The survey for installing solar power units had been undertaken nearly two years ago. Another survey was held prior to the implementation of the scheme to eliminate those having power connection already. A major feature of the scheme is that cent per cent subsidy is provided to the households for the installation of the panels. Central government bears 90 per cent of the cost while the rest is contributed by the district panchayat and the State government.

P.D. Joy, grama panchayat member, who is supervising the completion of the scheme on time, said that solar power units would be highly useful to the households, which were not provided with [power connection due to the remoteness of the area.

Mankulam grama panchayat had created a history of sorts in October 2004, by starting a mini hydel project producing 50 kV electricity, which was supplied to 300 households. This was the first electricity project implemented by a grama panchayat in the country. This was done in association with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Energy Management Centre (EMC) with public participation.

However, the project had to be abandoned four years ago due to technical problems and failure in synchronisation with the electricity provided by the KSEB. Mr. Joy said that this was the reason for seeking tailor-made schemes for the households.

A solar unit consists of a panel, two lights, battery and a plug point. It has also facility for charging mobile and WLL phones.