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Kerala rooftop solar scheme on shaky ground

Reports ask whether the rooftop solar programme, launched by the State government a fortnight ago, be a boon to the power-starved State?

Several experts in the field are of the view that the scheme might fail, if not implemented with utmost care. It is pointed out that for a mass project which has no parallels in Kerala in terms of technology integration, a failure at the grassroots level will be counterproductive in the long-term.

The pilot project, envisaged to provide off-grid power of one kilowatt each to 10,000 households, comes with a subsidy of about Rs.92,000 to each beneficiary. The project, intended to produce 10MW power in total, is being implemented through Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology (Anert).

The consumer has to register with Anert to be eligible for the subsidy comprising Rs.81,000 from Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Rs.39,000 from Anert. The beneficiary will incur a cost of Rs.2 – 2.5 lakh or more, including subsidy element.

Fourteen agencies have been empanelled by Anert for the consumer to choose from in order to undertake the installation across the State. Out of this, 13 belong to other States, but have associates and dealers in Kerala. The arrangement has potential for trouble, says Georgekutty. K, who owns Lifeway Solar, an enterprise in the solar photovoltaic sector and has set up solar power generation systems in Ernakulam.

The photovoltaic system needs periodic maintenance and the agency is bound by a warranty stretching 5 years, but it will be easier for at least some of the agencies outside the State to get away with inefficient handling. Mr. Georgekutty, who is also the secretary of the 16-member Kerala Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs and Promoters’ Association (Kreepa), cautions that inefficient post-installation service could sound a death knell to the solar photovoltaic initiative.

Shinu Kuriakose, owner of a bakery unit at Thodupuzha where a 10 kw solar photovoltaic system has been installed over a year ago, says that there are immense possibilities for the consumer being cheated. The agency should ensure production of 4 units of power daily on an average, as envisaged in the scheme. He cautions against use of inferior gadgets which would result in lesser efficiency. The consumer has a responsibility to make sure that the installed equipments are worthy and should not get carried away by the promises of the handling agency.

J.K. Thomas, Managing Director of Malankara Plantations Limited, who has installed a 15 kw solar PV system at the headquarters building at Kottayam, about a year ago, says that there is a possibility that the ignorant customer is misguided on the performance of the system.

The inverter used in the system was made in USA, but it had to be replaced three or four times.

The success of the programme rests on the kind of quality material used, says Vijay ranjan, marketing Manager, Team Sustain, another enterprise in the solar PV sector which has installed a few solar power generating units in the State. His apprehension is that there won’t be 100 per cent capacity fulfilment under the conditions prescribed by Anert.

M.Jayaraju, Director of Anert, said about 7,000 people have already registered.Anert’s technical team will oversee the feasibility in each case before installation.

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