Harvesting solar energy in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand is situated on the southern slope of the Himalayan range, and the climate and vegetation vary greatly with elevation, from glaciers at the highest elevations to subtropical forests at the lower elevations. Geographical constraints and the scattered population has made it difficult for power distribution companies to extend the grid to many of these remote villages and hamlets. Roads are still being built in most of the northern parts of the states which will be followed by setting up transmission lines for distributing electricity.
Until then, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has been delivering temporary solutions by harvesting in solar energy. The most common applications would be solar home lighting and street lighting systems in these areas which are replacing kerosene lamps that the inhabitants of these mountains relied upon for decades. Two major central government policies have helped in the implementation of these applications. They are: Remote Village Electrification Programme (since 2001) and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (since 2010).
On visiting these sites in early November few problems have been noticed beyond. After sales service by the suppliers of these systems has been very inactive. Many villagers also seemed unaware of the fact that their batteries needed replacement after 6 years for which they will not receive any subsidy. Most villagers seemed commented that they do not really require the power grid if they could have large modules at subsidized prices. They could not think of increasing their power consumption beyond the television sets, mobile phones and electric lamps that they owned.