Auroville search engine will crowdfund solar power for 100 villages in Tamil Nadu

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Under the Solar Village Initiative, Auroville Consulting will install around 100 MW of new solar capacity in rural Tamil Nadu. This will provide energy security to more than 200,000 people, while also reducing GHG emissions by up to 2.87 million tonnes.

Auroville Consulting will be responsible for the overall implementation and management of the Solar Village Initiative and search engine.

Co-founder Martin Scherfler told pv magazine that the installation target for the first year is 3 MW. Targets for the following years, meanwhile, will continuously increase to reach a total installed capacity of 100 MW in 10 years. Expressions of interest will be floated to select developers for these solar installation projects, he added.

The Solar Village Search Engine, just like any other search engine, allows its users to search the internet. The revenue from the search ads will be used to install solar panels in villages in Tamil Nadu.

Founded in 2010, Auroville Consulting is a unit of the non-profit organization Auroville Foundation. It collaborates with academic, private and public sector partners both in India and internationally, helping to develop sustainable urban and industrial development policies, and ecologically friendly technologies.

Site selection

Explaining the basis for selecting the villages and sites for the solar installations, Martin Scherfler said, “Auroville currently works in 98 villages at Villupuram District. Having this exceptional grassroot network, the first solar villages will be selected from these villages. Selection will be based on the population size and annual electricity consumption of the village, existing village level electrical infrastructure (location of distribution generators, etc) and strong village level support.”

He continued, “The site for the solar energy generator is ideally close to the distribution transformers to reduce infrastructure cost for evacuation. The solar system may also be installed on larger rooftops, in the case these can be found. Preferred land options are waste land and non-agricultural land. The land will be leased and not purchased.”

Solar energy generators are set to be connected on the low tension (LT) side of the grid, and gross metering will be implemented. The generated energy will then be sold to private parties or electricity utilities. The feeder supplying the village will become on par with an urban feeder, hence providing uninterrupted power supply.

Further scope

There are more than 15,000 villages in Tamil Nadu with a population of 37 million. This offers a huge opportunity for scaling up the program. The Renewable Energy Department of Tamil Nadu (TEDA) has proposed making the solar village initiative a statewide programme, which actively encourages the participation of the private sector (commercial and industrial).

In the near future, Auroville Consulting plans to add electric storage capacity to the solar systems. The first discussions with Mahindra Electric, an electric vehicle manufacturer and lithium ion battery producer, have started.