In India, Rural Residents Abandon Grid and Embrace Solar

india solar power photo

Image credit: Ajay Tallam, used under Creative Commons license.

From Thailand's aggressive solar targets to Israel's solar fields, the international push for mainstream solar power generation is well and truly on. But it's not just about showy projects and utility-scale solar power plants. Solar also offers the promise of decentralized supply, and putting power in the hands of those who have traditionally been left out of the equation. In India, many rural, economically disadvantaged communities are giving up on the grid, and turning to the sun instead.This isn't the first time we've reported on India's Solar Mission—an impressive attempt to install 20GW of solar power over the next decade. And while there were some serious murmurings of discontent that the solar mission's structure was anti-poor and anti-democratic, USA Today reports that India's Solar Mission is changing the lives of many rural residents, and that it could spur a technological and economic revolution not unlike the uptake of cellular phones:

"With kerosene, you have to carry the lamp around wherever you go. The light is dim, and smoke fills the room and spoils the paint," said Babu Gowda, a sprightly 59-year-old. He finally decided on solar after losing his dog to a tiger from the neighboring national park. Now light from his home wards off predators.

"I kept waiting and thinking the grid would come, and after years I was angry. But now I'm thrilled," he said. "Now we have light. We can move on, maybe expand with another solar panel and get a TV."

What's predicted for India's solar market is not unlike the recent explosion in cell phones, as villagers and slum-dwellers alike embraced mobile technology over lumbering landline connections. There is now at least one mobile phone link for every two people in the country.

We've already seen how solar can transform school performance in poor rural areas. With more and more charities, governments and entrepreneurs focusing on bringing truly clean, renewable power to people who have remained un-served, or under-served, by the status quo for so long, we may see solar innovation happening in some unexpected places.

More on Solar and Poverty Alleviation
Solar Transforms School Performance in East Africa (Video)
India's Outlines First Phase of its Solar Mission
india's Solar Mission: 2GW of Anti-Poor, Anti-Democratic Implementation
South African Utility Plans 1 Million Solar Water Heaters by 2015

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