The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) is an initiative of S.M. Sehgal Foundation working on poverty reduction in rural villages in the State of Haryana, India. IRRAD's campus, which resides among some of the ultra-modern high rises of Gurgaon, meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System'. It generates 35Kw of solar energy on-site, enough for all the electricity requirements of the building except air-conditioning.
SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Jay Sehgal and Pooja Murada
|The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) is an initiative of S.M. Sehgal Foundation working on poverty reduction in rural villages in the State of Haryana, India. IRRAD’s campus, which resides among some of the ultra-modern high rises of Gurgaon, meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™. It generates 35Kw of solar energy on-site, enough for all the electricity requirements of the building except air-conditioning.|
|Sustainable Buildings for Sustainable Future|
By Jay Sehgal and Pooja Murada,
Gurgaon, Haryana is one of the fastest growing cities in India. Growth is fueled by its proximity to New Delhi, and its easy access to the capital’s International Airport. In recognition of this boom, Guragon has been called the Millennium City. The Government of Haryana calls it the “Preferred Global Destination for Information Technology/Information Technology Enabled Services/Business Process Outsourcing. Driving from New Delhi to Gurgaon, sprawling high-rise buildings dominate the vista, creating an impression similar to downtown Singapore or Hong Kong.
But then the gushing black smoke emanating from the diesel generators atop of those beautiful high-rise buildings ends the illusion. The haze over Gurgaon is so strong that it dims the sunlight.
Most of the businesses in Gurgaon are either IT companies or BPOs and require continuous electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year. Daily electricity consumption in Gurgaon approximates to 7.5 million units. However, only 5.8 million units per day are supplied by the power company. The situation has probably worsened since these 2007 government estimates. The shortfall of 17 million units per day of electricity results in power cuts of up to 12 hours per day for industrial and residential areas. To meet business needs and building contractor promises, diesel generators have to be used.
Power shortages are not confined to the city of Gurgaon or the State of Haryana in India. It is a national problem. Most villages in rural India receive power only once or twice per week, for only a few hours at a time – if they are connected to the grid at all. Nearly 46% of rural India is not connected to any electricity grid.
The Government of India is developing alternative solutions such as coal, nuclear and hydro power in an attempt to meet the fast-growing demand. Ironically, these options will only be temporary fixes as they require fossil fuels, which are a finite, polluting, and increasingly expensive energy source.
To resolve India’s energy woes, the country must embrace alternative energy. India is endowed with ample solar energy. According to the Meteorological Department of India, there are 275 – 300 sunny days a year on average, depending upon location. The daily average solar energy incidence across India varies from 4 to 7 kWh/m2 with about 2,300–3,200 sunshine hours per year. This is far more than current total energy consumption. For example, even assuming 10% conversion efficiency for PV modules, it will still be thousand times greater than the likely electricity demand in India by the year 2015.
Leading by example – Urban Solution
The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) is an initiative of S.M. Sehgal Foundation working on poverty reduction in rural villages in the State of Haryana, India. IRRAD’s campus, which resides among some of the ultra-modern high rises of Gurgaon, meets the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™. It generates 35Kw of solar energy on-site, enough for all the electricity requirements of the building except air-conditioning. The solar system is backed up by a battery system which can supply the building’s need for up to three days in case of breakdown or insufficient sunlight. In addition, plenty of natural lighting is allowed into the building which minimizes the dependency on artificial lighting. Hot water requirements in the building are met through solar water heaters. For more information on IRRAD, its activities and the green campus, please visit our website at www.irrad.org.
IRRAD is a model that others can emulate. Its alternative energy system is applicable and replicable on a larger urban scale. Solar power currently costs more than fossil fuels, but as usage grows and the industry scales up, costs per unit of solar energy will fall – and at the same time, fossil fuel will become costlier. If the government would allow excess solar power to be sold back to the public electricity grid, the cost competitiveness of solar would improve significantly.
Solutions for Rural India
Power supply to rural India is unfortunately not a major government priority at the present time as the country is facing a major challenge just meeting the power needs of urban areas. Rural India will have to find local solutions to its energy problem.
IRRAD has made a very modest beginning by working with a few villages in Mewat district of Haryana, installing solar street lights at strategic locations. This small intervention has especially benefitted women. Rural women begin their days very early in the morning and they continue to do household chores till late in the evening. With no street lights, they face continuing worries about their security. With solar street lights they can go about their work with greater ease and security.
In addition, IRRAD has installed a 4KW solar power unit at the community centre in one of its intervention villages. This unit suffices for all power requirements for the center. Many of the people from surrounding villages hold their late evening meetings at this community center.
This is a small example of how providing energy to rural people can quickly transform their lives for the better. We believe that alternative energy, particularly solar grid systems are the solution to rural electrification.
Looking at the brighter side
Today, India lags behind countries such as Germany and Japan in solar energy development, even though those countries receive a fraction of the sunlight received in India. The country could take the lead and show the world how to minimize dependency on fossil fuels and still provide electricity to all parts of the country. With this single initiative, India could set an example to the world.
 Sustainable production of solar electricity with particular reference to the Indian economy Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 9, Issue 5, October 2005, Pages 444-473
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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