According to reports, as you drive on Vaijapur road near Aurangabad, don’t be surprised if you spot huge solar panels near petrol pumps. Harrowed by constant load shedding, owners of petrol pumps in the region, especially those in rural areas, are switching to solar power.
Four petrol pumps located on the outskirts of Sillod, on Vaijapur road and Beed bypass road near Aurangabad, are currently running the petrol dispensing machines with the help of solar energy. Experts claim there are 75 petrol pumps in the country running on solar energy, of which 12 are in Maharashtra.
Last Sunday, Manjit Singalkar switched to solar energy to run his petrol pump on Mantha road in Jalna. He has installed 5Kv panels and the petrol pump is running entirely on the power supplied through the solar panels.
“In one week, our dependency on electricity has reduced by more than 50%. We believe it will prove economically feasible in the long run,” he said. The owners like Singalkar are making good use of the ample sunlight the region receives through the year.
The trend started in Uttar Pradesh which faces load shedding almost through the day. It forced outlets to switch to solar energy.
Similarly, most areas in Marathwada face load shedding for eight hours a day. In rural areas, load shedding goes up to 18 hours a day. Petrol pumps in these areas used diesel generators for running the petrol dispensing machines. They have now opted for solar power.
Sham Dande, member of Apar Urja, an NGO working for the promotion of solar energy, said that Marathwada observes almost 330 sunny days a year, more than most other parts of the state.
“It is a welcome sign that petrol pumps owners from Marathwada are switching towards solar energy. The results are astonishing. Solar energy is an answer to load shedding in the rural areas,” said Dande.
Petrol pump owners say they have to spend between Rs 15, 000 and Rs 22, 000 a month to run diesel generators to ensure continuous power supply during load shedding hours. The annual expenditure is between Rs 1.80 lakh and Rs 2.50 lakh.
Some pump owners also cite long term cost efficiency for shifting to solar power. They however say that it requires substantial initial investment and support from the petroleum companies.
Mukund Anwikar, who installed solar panels at his petrol pump in 2011, claimed that he saved around Rs 2 lakh annually that he used to spend on diesel generators.
Anwikar said, “The solar panels required basic investment of Rs 6 lakh. We have already recovered most of the invested amount. I do not have to spend on the diesel generators and monthly electricity bill has come down by 50 per cent”.
Viren Patel, a petrol pump owner from Jalna, said, “Load shedding is affecting the profit made by petrol pump owners, forcing them to think of switching to other modes of energy”.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) provides a 30% subsidy on the installation cost of a solar photovoltaic power plant. However, activists said that it takes a long time to receive the amount.
“The government takes at least 15 months to disburse the 30% subsidy. This is proving a major hurdle for many to install the solar panels,” said Dande.