Switching to solar power

Kathmandu: At a time when the energy crisis has become acute, the demand for solar power has witnessed incessant growth. In the past few years, this renewable source of energy has emerged as a better option to electric energy both in rural to urban areas of Nepal. After the massive earthquake of April 25, there has been a surge in demand for solar energy as the quake-affected regions are cut off from electricity.

Of late, Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN) has designed a mini-grid that turns the solar radiation to electric power in order to manage the shortage of power supply in affected areas. Citing that most electric poles and micro-hydro projects were destroyed by the quake, Bikash Gurung, Executive Member of RAN said, “We came up with the programme – ‘Light of Hope’ through which we plan to distribute some 400 units of solar energy equipment for free in the VDCs of the six most affected districts.”According to him, this programme covers Dolakha, Sindupalchowk, Gorkha, Rasuwa, Nuwakot and Dhading.

The programme, in the second stage, includes a free training session scheduled to be conducted by Gham Power (GP), a solar energy equipment supplier. The second stage not only aims at training non-technical people on how to install solar equipment and its maintenance, but also increase the business aspect by encouraging people to get involved in it. “We are trying to install a nano-grid where a huge amount of solar power is distributed by setting up poles and connect through wires,” said Pradip Humagain, Sales Engineer at GP.

With this system, users pay monthly bill as per the unit they use. Likewise, the system allows users to sell power that is not being used by them. According to him, the government has a provision of subsidising Rs 15,000 for the solar panel of above 500 watts. Likewise, it bears 75 per cent of interest on their loan taken from banks in order to install it. “The recent earthquake has compelled people to consider solar energy as their first priority because they have been deprived of electric power for a long time,” he mentioned. According to him, there has been a tremendous increase in sales post disaster.

Citing that almost a decade ago, solar energy used to be very popular in rural areas only, Pratik Karki, Sales Manager at Lotus Energy said, “In the past few years, demand has increased in urban areas too due to acute power crisis.” According to him, people are more inclined towards solar energy after being deprived of electric supply after the massive earthquake.

The micro-grid can normally supply power to 100 to 200 households. Though it appears uneconomical at the beginning, it turns out to be cost-friendly in the long run. This unlimited source of energy is ecofriendly. Currently, there are 87 dealers in the country supplying the solar panels. The average cost of the panel per watt is Rs 100.