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Solar-Powered ICT Centers in India
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Combining solar power and communications initiatives has become a hot development strategy, with organizations like Green WiFi and Inveneo leading the way. (See Worldchanging coverage here and here.) The marriage of these two goals makes particular sense in India, where gleaming high-tech parks exist alongside flagging rural infrastructure. While cities like Bangalore now house the world's top IT companies, half of the country doesn't have power.

TKC.jpgEnter The Energy Research Institute (TERI), a Delhi-based organization with its' hands in everything from green building to fuel cell cars to biodiversity. Before Dr. Rajendra Pachauri took over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and started leading it toward a share of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, he helped turn TERI into a world-class research center with offices throughout India, funding from corporations like BP, and even its own university. (Pachauri still oversees the center's work. When I visited last week, he stopped in after a day penning editorials on climate change as a guest editor of The Times of India.) Earlier this month, TERI unveiled a solar-powered Internet and knowledge center in Gual Pahari, near Gurgaon. The organization has sponsored the launch of similar centers in Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, and rural Bangalore. (Check out the central knowledge network page.)

Gual Pahari is on the grid, but power routinely goes out for eight to ten hours at a stretch. For villages in this situation, TERI developed Solverter, a hybrid solar-electric battery that combines a 75W solar panel with power from the grid when it is available, giving priority to solar. When the grid is functioning properly, the battery produces what TERI researcher Arvindd Narayanan describes as a 60/40 mix. When it isn't, Solverter allows a center to run exclusively on solar power for four to six hours.

TERI's model is to identify promising local entrepreneurs, train them, and sell them the technology and equipment they will need to set up shop -- down to a sign to hang on the wall. To ensure that centers are sustainable, organization representatives spend hours screening potential entrepreneurs, even submitting them to a psychometric test. (We're not convinced that dedication can be ascertained so scientifically, but intentions, at least, are noble here.)

In Gual Pahari, the man they selected was Saroj Kumar, who says he was inspired by the thought that he might help local children progress beyond the eighth grade.

In exchange for training, equipment, and continued technical support, entrepreneurs pay 70,000-100,000 rupees ($1,773-$2,533). If they have difficulty raising this money themselves, TERI helps them procure micro-loans. The package only includes one computer, but the aim is not so much to sell services as it is to attract the community -- in development-speak, to "pull" them in with information rather than push them away by selling.

The technology itself is a big draw. Narayanan says some entrepreneurs charge for use of digital cameras, which are popular among villagers who can't afford to develop film. At the same time, TERI encourages centers to focus on issues of local relevancy. Some fashion themselves as centers for agricultural information, while others rally around water treatment. In Uttarakhand, a Himalayan state bordering Tibet, center efforts focus on the collection of medicinal herbs, an important source of income in the area. "The goal," Narayanan says, "is to capacity-build in the communities - to empower the villages with technology."


solar_panel.jpg
Entrepreneur Saroj Kumar with the solar panel side of the Solverter.

computer_mfd_solverter.jpg
The Solverter-powered computer center.

herbal_solar_products.jpg
Herbal and solar products.

small_library.jpg
The center's small library.

students.jpg
Students being instructed at the center.

All images by TERI

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Comments


Hpapy to go through.
The advent of solar car battery is a commendable step especially in countries in India

Please let me know the utility factor of the above car battery in solar driven cars.


Also, post me developments about recent developments with regard to Solar car in India in order to be more closr to the reality.


s venkataraman


Posted by: s venkataraman on 2 Nov 07

Great to know about such kind of organisation performing reaserches and inventions towards non traditional sources of energy.

Please, update me about recent developments and inventions.

Good going best of luck.


Posted by: Deepak Sabita on 4 Nov 07

Teri is doing fantastic job for rural development and Dr Pachauri's work is realy a appreciable and this type work should be done nationaly with the help of govt. Govt should open this type of more centers throghout the country.


Posted by: Vishal Bagh on 5 Nov 07

In case anyone needs more information on TERIs ICT initiative or the "solverter", you may please contact us at :

arvindd@teri.res.in
gauravc@teri.res.in


Posted by: Arvindd Narayanan on 8 Nov 07



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