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Off-Grid Lighting Solutions For Rural Electrification

Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam, India receives solar lantern from TERI Director General. Credit: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
by Staff Writers
New Delhi, Delhi, India (SPX) Jul 28, 2010
In continuation of its efforts and commitment towards providing clean lighting solutions in rural regions of the country and beyond, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) under its flagship project "Lighting a Billion Lives" (LaBL), unveiled new models of solar lanterns jointly designed and developed by TERI along with its technology partners.

These new solar lanterns will provide cutting edge, affordable lighting solutions, ensuring high quality illumination.

Present on the occasion to unveil the lanterns were Mr. Jitin Prasada, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, along with Mr. Deepak Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Dr RK Pachauri, Director General TERI , Ms Akanksha Chaurey, Director Decentralized Energy Solutions as well as LaBL's solar technology partners from India and overseas.

In his address Mr. Jitin Prasada, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas said "It is a matter of personal gratification for me to be associated with unveiling of these new generation cost effective solar lanterns under TERI's "Lighting a Billion Lives" initiative.

Since I myself represent a rural constituency I can appreciate the importance of such projects to the vast majority of our rural brothers and sisters. This fact reflects that this vast majority is not only unable to join the mainstream of development, but also suffers on account of adverse implications on human health. We cannot expect our fellow citizens to wait for the last mile of electrification grid.

It is, therefore, important that we seek solutions like LaBL, which definitely has the potential of fulfilling the gap between effective supply demand in rural lighting. This initiative provides as excellent opportunity for the public and private sector to synergize their efforts and maximize the benefits."

Lauding TERI and its technology partner's initiative in developing these state-of-the art solar lanterns, Mr. Deepak Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said "Organizations such as TERI, along with its partners compliment and supplement MNRE's efforts in achieving the targets of the National Solar Mission.

This is a shining example of how innovation can work wonders to bring state-of-the-art technology to homes without electricity. Your interest and commitment will certainly facilitate a paradigm shift needed for commoditization of solar off-grid applications."

Elaborating on LaBL and the requirement for such partnerships, Dr. R.K. Pachauri Director General TERI said, "Lighting of homes without access to grid electricity is a challenge addressed in a unique way by the Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) campaign. We have taken a significant step towards using modern photovoltaic technology for the benefit of the 1.6 billion people globally who lack electricity.

TERI has worked with several partner organizations in bringing about major improvements in the design of solar lanterns to make these affordable and reliable so that we can light up the homes of those deprived of regular electricity supply."

Commenting on the occasion, Ms Akanksha Chaurey, Director Decentralized Energy Solutions and Head of TERI's Lighting a Billion Lives program added, "This initiative has tremendous business opportunity not only for India but also in other parts of the Subcontinent, as well as Latin America and Africa.

The capability that India develops in this area would also have huge export potential. I am glad to see the overwhelming response of the industry who have come forward and accepted the challenge of rural energy access of which lighting is a critical component.

Rural lighting markets offer immense opportunities for start-ups including established industries in solar, lighting, storage and allied fields. LaBL not only has business potential but is a great medium to bring about social change."

Solar lanterns have proved to be a clean, reliable and versatile source of lighting that benefit thousands of rural households who despite the aggressive grid expansion plans are still living in the dark.

TERI's Lighting a Billion Lives team has been working hard along with its existing and new technology partners to further the mission's objectives in bringing down the cost of lanterns while simultaneously enhancing technical performance.

The launch has unveiled five categories of LED based lanterns that are tested in-house and are ready to be used in rural lighting initiatives not only in India, but in other developing countries as well.

Technology partners Nichia, Japan; Texas Instruments, USA; Amara Raja and Regnant Lighting, have been instrumental in this breakthrough. They have worked closely manufacturers Sujana Energy, Kripa Lights, Avni Energy, BNK Energy Alternatives, Agni Power and are living proof of the wonders of public-private-people-partnerships.

The new lanterns have enhanced features such as super bright white LED light, low power consumption, 6V/4.5Ah SMF Lead acid battery, three modes of brightness - high, medium and dim, Light output at one foot - horizontal-min.60 lux, Vertical -min.128 lux (in regular LED lantern) and horizontal-min.120 lux, Vertical -min.250 lux (in ultra bright LED lantern), upto 7 hours of run time with 50,000 hours of LED life, and a solar charger capacity of 5Wp and 3Wp.

The initiative Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) was launched in February 2008 with the aim to illuminate rural households which have no access to electricity. Since its launch, LaBL has illuminated around 30,000 households spread over 550 villages across 15 Indian states. Solar lanterns are recharged at a village solar charging station and rented out to the villagers at a daily nominal cost.

These charging stations, while ensuring quality services at affordable rate, also provide green jobs to local people who manage these stations; besides helping reduce consumption of subsidized kerosene substantially.

Last year LaBL established a forum of like minded technology providers called LaBL-PaT, to develop efficient, low cost and reliable solar lanterns using state-of-the-art technical and scientific knowledge. New designs of solar lanterns were introduced that are currently being used in the LaBL initiative.

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