For most of us, electricity is a modern convenience we take for granted. This fundamental technology plays an important role in everything we do. It’s hard to imagine life without a television, computer, or even a simple lamp. Globally, many places struggle for a sustainable electrical power. Countries, states, and even small villages face severe cases of faltering power (“New Solar Program”). But, for four hundred villagers in the isolated town of Meerwada, India, trustworthy electrical power was a dream that recently became a reality. (“Solar Power Alters”). Residents lives have changed immensely, all because of one idealistic solution; solar energy. Although only a village of four hundred people, Meerwada proves to India and the rest of the world that solar power is truly the new, sustainable source of energy (“Solar Power and Renewable Energy”). Solar energy is a steady source that is clean, renewable and can dramatically transform lives and unlock life changing benefits.
Before solar energy in Meerwada, the village hewed to the sun’s schedule. It was only natural for daily chores to be completed before sunset. The only exception of light in the dark would be weak powered kerosene lamps (“SunEdison Brings Solar Power”). Adults made the choice of whether to provide these lamps to themselves or to their children, who must study for school. Whoever got the kerosene lamp for the night would start to cough within minutes as the toxic fumes entered their lungs. Kerosene fumes can cause all kinds of illnesses (“Solar Power and Renewable”). In Meerwada, a total of seven homes had burned down due to the leaking lights and tables catching on fire while lighting the lamps in the dark after a refill of kerosene. Most villagers reported not even having the desire to own kerosene lamps, but like Babitha, a mother of four said, “There is no other option for light at night. Thieves have a cat eye and always pick dark houses, so they can steal anything without being seen.” Every night and day was a true struggle for this off-grid community (“Solar Power Alters Life”).
In the year 2012 however, the complete absence of power no longer became just a problem for this small village. India struggled with a crippling infrastructure setback as major blackouts affected nearly 670 million people and left over half the nation’s population in the dark without electricity (Bhomick, Ninjana. “India Looks to Power”). The collapse of three of the five governments operated electrical grid systems in two consecutive days resulted in the world’s two worst blackouts in human history. First to fail, was India’s northern grid; which also collapsed the day before leaving 350 million people in the dark for 14 hours (“New Solar Program”). This was quickly followed by the eastern grid. These two blackouts raised serious concerns about India’s infrastructure and government to meet the nation’s need for power. Green peace stated that the blackout was “an eye opener that the present energy infrastructure in India needs to be diversitised, both at the generation and the distribution level.” (Bhomick, Ninjana. “India Looks to Power”)
Experts all agree that India must change its primary energy source and find a sustainable, clean, and trustworthy power (“Off Grid Power”). A huge component of the issue is that India relies mainly on coal. This is not only a problem that has decreased India’s productivity, but also countries like Asia, the United States, Africa, and Japan. High energy prices and high and high subsidies have combined into a detrimental mixture for India (“Stl Today”). The second most populated nation is suffering from the power scarcity and its most convenient is to draw from the cheapest energy source possible; coal. But continuing a constant reliance on coal will only dig India and the rest of the world into a deeper hole. Solar energy is not only less expensive than burning diesel, but also a trustworthy source (“The Daily Impact”).
Solar power’s backers say India needs to embrace a new model of power to fully realize the benefits of tapping the sun. Environmentalist Gopalan says,“There is a new era of possibilities beginning now with solar. All that is needed is for policy makers to believe in local generation and delivery rather than a centralized model.” (“Meerwada”). One of the only concerns the human population has with solar power is that it takes a lot of skill too assemble and create solar panels (“Off-grid Power Shines in Indian”). This problem is being answered however at Barefoot College in Rajasthan. This college trains rural, uneducated women to become solar engineers and solar electrify remote villages, like Meerwada’s. Its graduates have delivered power to 13,000 homes across central India. “We need low cost, community based solutions. Let poor people manage, control and own their own resources. Involve the community in the decision making process and then they will look after it and take responsibilities. We don’t need business models. We need partnership models.” Said Bunker Roy, the founder of Barefoot College (“Pros & Cons”).
With the help of Meerwada, India’s government has begun to acknowledge the importance of solar energy to the country economic growth, which the rest of the world needs to start doing as well. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has said solar energy will transform rural India, launched a National Solar Mission in 2012 (“India Looks to Power”). Initial growth has been dramatic, albeit from a tiny base. From less than 12 megawatts in 2009, solar power generation in the country grew to 190 Megawatts in 2011. By March 2013, it is expected to grow fivefold to 1,000 Megawatts. (“New Solar Program”). Across India, thousands of villages have a plentiful amount of sun, they just nee to implement solar panels to preserve a source of energy that is rightfully theirs.
ADD With the cost of solar photovoltaic cells falling — prices dropped by 50% last year and are now a quarter of what they were in 2008 — renewable-energy advocates say India is ripe for a solar-power revolution (“Stl Today”). More than 40% of the countryside is still not connected to the national power grid, and a 2010 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. said power demand in India trails supply by 12.7%. Closing this gap “will be critical for India to achieve its growth targets,” the report said. Failure to meet that unsatisfied demand could hamper India’s growth, the World Economic Forum said in a recent report (“The Daily Impact”). If India is to target a growth trajectory of 9% a year, it will have to increase energy production by 6.5% every year, the WEF said. Supporters hope solar energy can help address this power gap while allowing India to stick to its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 20% to 25% by 2020 (“Stl Today”). The Only way this will be accomplished it to implement Solar Energy, starting with Central India, and then inspiring the rest of the country and the world.
In the year 2012, SunEdison, a California based solar power service selected Meerwada as the first village in its “Eradication of Darkness” program (“SunEdison Looking to Light up”). This program aimed to light up 150 villages throughout India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Although the electricity is not free, villagers only have to pay one dollar, which is less money than what they were paying for for kerosene. This pilot project has made Meerwada a forerunner in India; a remote village, with electricity everyday and night. With around 300 sunny days a year, solar energy in India is immense, With investments of $10.2 in clean energy, solar is starting to become more prominent (“SunEdison Brings Solar Power”).
Bringing solar energy was not only a inspiring and technical project, but also a social effort. After failed projects by other organizations, SunEdison knew they needed to gain the trust and respect of not only Meerwada, but also the world. During the installation process, residents participated in electricity safety education (“New Solar Program”). Even children took part in the project, serving as translators and providing assistance to the team. Manik Jolly of SunEdison said that, “At first children were most interested in having electricity to study after dark. Now they are also looking forward to music and other possibilities” (“Meerwada, India: Children”). Solar Energy not only provides the community with sustainable power, but also inspires the future of our world’s generation.
The solar plant has set the entire community on the path to prosperity by eradicating darkness and allowing residents to extend their day past sunset. Local residents can hold meeting after ark in the town hall, children can study in their homes which creates educational opportunities for establishing a brighter future for the next generation in Meerwada, and household chores can be completed after dark. The new solar plant has also dramatically changed public safety in the community. After dark, streets are bright with lights. Even the select few that have mobile phones in this remote village have the opportunity to communicate better with one another (“Solar Power and Renewable”). The facility in Meerwada has not only become an inspiration to the 400 people in the village, but also to the Indian government as well as the rest of the world (“Solar Power Alters Life”).
Energy is a cornerstone of human development. Without it, life would be very different. We couldn’t light our homes, access clean water, provide quality health care, or use technology to communicate with the world. With coal being the most prominent energy source on earth, global warming is increasing. It accounts for 43 percent of global emissions (2.7 billion tons of it every year) (“The Daily Impact”). This is something that the world needs to change. The world needs take a glance at the tiny village of Meerwada. This village went from no electricity at all, to power everyday and night. India and the rest of the world needs to look at Meerwada as a glimpse of hope. Meerwada proves that solar energy is a trustworthy source that the rest of the world should start implementing. Solar energy is clean, safe, reliable, and an ideal to solution for our world’s future.