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Office in rural Madurai turns to solar to beat the power crisis

According to reports, on Monday afternoon, when the power supply was suspended abruptly in Theni, residents were resigned to their fate to beat the sweltering heat, while office rooms came to a standstill.

But one building that continued with its business as usual was the office of the Planters Energy Network (PEN), an NGO that offers electricity solutions to the plantation industry. But for the air-conditioner, the entire electricity needs of the office are met with solar power.

The office has solar panels of two MW capacity that generate up to 14 units of electricity everyday to power six desktops, one laptop, 10 fluorescent bulbs and six fans.

“The office consumes 18 units of electricity every day. Three units go for the air-conditioner and the motor pumpset for which we depend on grid power. The rest of the power requirement is met by the solar energy,” says C Palaniappan, chief executive officer of PEN.

Palaniappan claims that PEN was the first organisation in the state to go for almost complete green energy. Though solar panels are investment intensive, in the long run they are economical and ecological, he says. “Solar panels of one KW capacity cost Rs 2.5 lakh. The government extends a subsidy of Rs 81,000 for one KW,” Palaniappan says.

Solar panels absorb heat from beam light when it is sunny or diffused radiation when it is cloudy. Unless there is continuous rain for days together, the solar panels would continue to generate electricity that could be stored in cells, he said. Once installed, the panels have a life of 25 years.

He pointed out that one KW solar panels generate four to seven units per day which is adequate for a medium household. “But we could check the power requirements and design the system accordingly. Solar panels are apt for any kind of household or office. In fact it is high time that we go green. There will not be coal or any fossil fuel in future. Besides, fossil fuel consumption is also contributing to global warming. We have to prepare ourselves to sustain in future,” Palaniappan said.

PEN has offered green energy solutions to many industries, especially in the plantation sector to meet the electricity requirements. “There is a growing awareness among public on renewable energy. Many companies, architects and engineers as well as individuals approach us to provide solar energy solutions,” says Palaniappan who had served as a teaching faculty in the Madurai Kamaraj University and a visiting faculty to universities in Italy and Germany.

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