Lighting up lives with a bright idea

Solar power

Centre of attraction:  Anand P Narayan, head of Selco Labs, Ujire with a solar lantern at the Solar Energy Centre in Dharmasthala. DH Photos

The Centre - with 20 mobile phone charging units, 15 solar lanterns, five solar lamps, a big torch, a thermo-electric fridge and a TV among other utilities that run on solar energy - has been attracting pilgrims as well as locals.

While pilgrims throng the Centre for charging their mobile phones and drinking purified water, locals come to the Centre to hire solar lanterns and solar lamps, especially when they have some event (like Bhoothakola) at their homes.

Though the Centre charges Rs 10 per day per solar lantern, it works out to be much cheaper than the alternatives for the locals as well as vendors selling flowers and other items.

They would otherwise have to spend much more than Rs 10 - either for kerosene for the traditional lanterns or for candles, which are less bright compared to solar lanterns.

Vasanth, the in-charge of the Centre, said sometimes people wait in a queue to get their mobile phones charged. Almost all the solar lamps are taken away by people who need them. “On an average, about 6,000 litres of drinking water (free of cost) is taken by pilgrims everyday from the Centre. The water is purified using solar power,” he said.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Anand P Narayan, head of Selco Labs in Ujire, who set up the Centre in Dharmasthala, said the Centre - with a 1.8-KW generator and 12 solar panels of 140 watt each - has been receiving overwhelming response ever since it was set up on March 18 this year.

In fact, he is planning to set up 10 more such centres in rural areas including in the pilgrim centres of the Himalayas and Darjeeling.

Anand Narayan, with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, also worked as a research associate at ASTRA (Applications of Science and Technology for Rural Areas) of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, between 1999 and 2001.

He is heading Selco Labs since 2009.

Incidentally, August 20 is celebrated as the Rajiv Gandhi Akshay Urja Divas to create awareness on new and renewable sources of energy.

A ship container

The Solar Energy Centre at Dharmasthala is originally a ship container and was meant to be used in a village in Uttar Pradesh (UP) for a project by Harish Hande (this year’s Magsaysay awardee).

“One day, Hande (a friend of Anand Narayan and managing director of Selco Solar India) called me up and said the container will be landing in Chennai as the Uttar Pradesh project was cancelled,” Anand Narayan recalled.

After bringing it to Dharmasthala, Anand spent about Rs one lakh to develop the Centre and the rest is history.

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