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Khargone village ‘lights’ a revolution

On the face of it a tiny village in Khargone district seems an unlikely candidate for pioneering a revolution in street lighting. But Nemit, a hamlet in Bitangaon tehsil inhabited by some 1,000 people, is an exception.
By Saeed Khan | Hindustan Times, Indore
UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2013 02:52 PM IST

On the face of it a tiny village in Khargone district seems an unlikely candidate for pioneering a revolution in street lighting. But Nemit, a hamlet in Bitangaon tehsil inhabited by some 1,000 people, is an exception.

Usually pitch dark in the evening like many parts of the hinterland, the village is now lit up by 15 light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights. The 6-watt solar LED streetlights match the brightness of 13 watt CFLs normally used in solar streetlights but cost much less.

Moreover, unlike conventional fixtures the solar LEDs can be hung outside houses or even from a tree, thus saving the cost of poles one of the major expenses in street lighting.

The street lighting project is an initiative of NGO Education Park started by IIT Bombay professor Chetan Singh Solanki who was born in Nemit village where his parents still stay.

Khargone collector Navneet Kothari formally inaugurated the LED streetlights on Sunday evening at a programme attended by Solanki, Dr Ranganayakulu Bodavala, managing director of Thrive Energy Technologies Pvt Ltd which manufactures the lights, waste management expert Almitra Patel and, of course, a posse of delighted villagers.

Talking to HT over the phone, Solanki said his childhood years were spent poring over academic books by the light of a kerosene lamp. Power generation is an important part of providing job opportunities in rural areas, he added. “I’m from Nemit but I can’t do anything for the village and it can’t give me a job here,” Solanki pointed out.

In an e-mailed note, Dr Bodavala said normal solar CFL streetlights with poles, battery and five-year warranties et al cost between Rs. 18,000 to 24,000 apiece, including one 60 amp battery and a 60-70 watt solar panel.

He said although conventional battery life came with a five-year guarantee, they normally failed within two years due to poor maintenance and/or cannibalisation of parts for other uses. Since it cost Rs. 4,500 to replace a battery, this was rarely done and the solar panels were utilised by influential people for personal use.

Thrive’s street-lights with five watt solar panels, on the other hand, provided better lighting at a total cost of Rs. 3,000 including three years’ maintenance. The LEDs use small four amp sealed leadacid batteries available in any electrical store which can be replaced annually at a cost of Rs. 200.

The removable batteries are recharged daily either from grid power or from rooftop solar panels in villages that lack power supply. The streetlights give five hours’ of full-brightness till about midnight and operate at half-brightness till dawn.

Last but not the least, the LEDs contain no polluting elements, something that can’t be said for mercury-containing fluorescents like tubelights and CFL, he added.

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