Finding solace in solar power

Finding solace in solar power

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Finding solace in solar power

Faced with frequent power-cuts and rising electricity bills, a sizeable number of Bangaloreans are turning to an option that’s long been touted as the solution to the City’s power shortage crisis — solar energy.

The technology, which was restricted to a limited market a few years ago, is now being used as an alternative source of power in several homes. In part, this shift is due to environment consciousness; on the other hand, several citizens are now beginning to realise that solar energy, quite simply, is convenient.

There are two main considerations that have to be kept in mind before installing a
solar-energy system: space constraints and a high-initial cost. From there onwards, promises K S Deshpal, the proprietor of Prolight Systems, it’s smooth sailing.

“More people are taking to solar energy because of frequent power cuts. Besides, from a long-term point of view, it’s a cost-efficient alternative source of energy,” he says. While he admits that the initial cost of installing solar panels is definitely on the steeper side, he goes on to add that this expense can be recovered. “The panels last about 25 years and generally, our customers recover their cost in about six years,” he shares.

Despite the upsurge in the market for the technology, few homes in the City are powered by solar energy one hundred per cent. A total shift, explains Deshpal, is a little impractical because of the space and cost factors. The model which most Bangaloreans use is to have two systems of power running simultaneously.

“Many of our customers use solar power to cater to daily equipment that require moderate power, such as their refrigerators, televisions and lights. On the other hand, items like air-conditioners and heaters are generally powered with the usual electricity supply, since their power requirement is higher,” he elaborates.

Vijay Balaji, the director of VD Swami & Company, outlines another model of solar power usage that customers tend towards – as a back-up. “In areas where the supply of electricity is intermittent, people tend to look for alternatives and that’s where solar power comes in. Depending on the battery bank, this technology can provide homes with enough power to use a couple of lights, an air-conditioner and a refrigerator for about five hours,” he explains.

“In most inverters, there is only one source to charge a battery – electricity supply.
In the absence of that, people have to go without power. But if the same inverter were fixed with a solar battery as well, it would have two sources of power,” he adds.

Ramesh Menon, a resident of Electronic City, installed a solar-powered geyser in his home a few years back. He was pleasantly surprised by it, which is why he decided to try out the technology on a larger scale. “Honestly speaking, I installed the geyser only because my wife insisted on it,” he admits. “But I was surprised by how efficient the geyser was. We had piping hot water 24 hours a day, provided we were a little careful about not overusing it late in the evening. That’s when I decided to install solar panels on our roof and now, our lights, fan and refrigerators run on solar energy.”

In his opinion, the high initial cost of installing the system is more than compensated for. “After all, maintaining the panels doesn’t cost a thing. We simply have to wipe them down every month or so, and there’s been a sizeable dip in our electricity bills,” he states.
Could solar energy replace electricity as the predominant method of powering a home? Vijay doesn't seem to feel that this is going to happen anytime in the near future.
“Because electricity isn’t always available, it’s a good alternative. It’s a source of energy that you can generate and use on your own – you don’t have to be dependent on any external party,” he adds.

He agrees, though, that the market for solar power is definitely swelling. “All other factors apart, the systems are priced attractively,” he explains. “Besides, there’s a government subsidy of 30 per cent on the cost of installing the entire system. And given that the supply of electricity isn’t always continuous, it’s the perfect option for many.”

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