Abhishek Gupta, president at Sunipod of Mumbai, India, reports on how solar microgrids benefit the economics of rural villages.
Our biggest cities are facing increasing pressure on their infrastructure. Rural migration to urban locations has been a constant since the industrial revolution where the rural population comes to Urbania looking for better opportunities. But what must be high on the agenda is to take these opportunities to wherever they are, no matter how remote. Solar energy will play a pivotal role in bringing this turnaround. Rural villages can be powered easily using solar energy microgrids, as there usually is land available for installation.
As more people move to the cities, life in rural villages is becoming increasingly harder. Farmers have to work harder all day long to make a basic living when the climate is harsh. The younger generation, seeing their parents toiling, do not want to stay back to suffer the same grueling fate. They expect to have a better life in a city if they can find a job. They usually end up as unskilled day laborers living in unacceptably unsanitary circumstances. Unfortunately, most of the time they are living in slums with harder conditions than the ones they have left behind them, with little option of going back. Solar power can bring a backward migration for these groups of people by bringing dignity and a better standard of living back to the villages.
Rural Electrification by Solar Power
The real mission of rural electrification must be not only the provision of lamps, but to go one step further. A truly developmental view needs to be taken towards village electrification. The difference between providing a lamp and making electricity available for the population is pivotal to this approach. This approach allows the rural community to go beyond the regular scope of activities and to vastly expand their horizons which themselves are limited due to the lack of electricity. Rather than training select members of the community to become “green or solar entrepreneurs” rural solar electrification gives the whole population a tool to realize their complete potential in any field they feel fit.
Education Powered by Solar Energy
The rural population is mostly uneducated, not because of talent or spirit but because of lack of channels of education. The advent of locally generated solar power can bring to them the same learning tools that the urban population has. Solar power can be used to provide simple evening lighting that is often taken for granted in cities, and that can bring about a huge change in the life of the growing rural generation.
Solar Contributes to Better Healthcare
Access to equipped medical clinics is essential for all. It becomes even more important when the rural population is living in such isolation away from major healthcare facilities. Even basic diagnostic capabilities require solar power and can mean the difference between life and death, not only improving child and adult health but also reducing infant mortality — not to mention the importance of solar energy in provision of clean fresh water, latrines and fresh food preventing diseases and epidemics.
Increased Vocation through Solar Power
With localized solar power comes localized vocations, ranging from simple solar powered looms to solar grinding mills . Telecom has penetrated a large portion of the rural population. There is plenty work of work in a rural village, if you have access to information and the Internet, where location independent simple jobs can be done without having to shift locations. Solar power can make sure that aspirations are not let down due to lack of power. Solar pumps can boost agricultural output and potentially lower costs giving the farmers disposable income that they can use to further invest in themselves.
The question is not if solar energy is the solution to rural upliftment, but how fast can we move to use this available resource to reduce pressures on large cities and to improve life of the rural population. The real question is which kind of world do you want ?