India's first solar-powered village promotes green energy, sustainability and self-reliance

Gadvi Kailashben, a 42-year-old widow, lives in Modhera, home to the centuries-old Sun Temple and now the first village in India that runs on solar energy.

She earns a meagre income from agriculture which she uses to take care of her family. The Government has installed solar panels on her house which has given her much-needed relief from household expenses.

“Earlier, when solar was not there, I had to pay huge amount for the electricity bill - close to 2,000 rupees. However, with the installation of the solar, my electricity bill is now zero. Everything from the refrigerator to washing machine now runs on solar in my house. I am not paying even 1 rupee electricity bill now,” said Ms. Kailashben.

“The extra money is now saved in my account. I use that money for daily house expenses, and for the education of my children,” she added.

Conversion to a clean, renewable energy source is not only enabling the villagers to run more electrical household gadgets to make life comfortable, without worrying about the electricity bill. It is also becoming a source of income for them.

Ashaben Mahendrabhai, 38, lives with her husband and two children. “We work in our farm and used to pay huge electricity bill for agriculture. Since solar installation in our village, we are now saving a lot of electricity. Earlier our electricity bill used to come around 2,000 rupees. Now it is in minus,” she said.

With the electricity bill in minus, Ashaben is not only saving the money that she used to spend on electricity, but the excess electricity generated is sold back to the grid and she gets money in return.

“When the first time the project team came to us with the idea of solar, we didn’t understand the concept, so we refused to get it installed. We were not literate to understand what solar energy was and had little knowledge about it. But slowly, the team made us understand the concept and the advantages of solar, how we will save electricity and money, then we got interested in it,” she said.

Local farmers Pingalsinh Karsanbhai Gadhvi and Surajben Gadhvi, who are married, got  solar rooftops installed on their house six months ago.

Pingalsinh Karsanbhai feels that this project has not only given them freedom from electricity bills, but the savings will hold them in good stead in old age.

“Earlier we used to get electricity bill of 3,000 rupees and after solar it is zero now. Now we are saving those 3,000 rupees every month,” he said.

“These solar panels have benefited the entire village. All the institutions like schools, public institutions, all have benefited from the solar in the village. In my individual capacity I am saving 3,000 rupees. Now we don’t require extra energy. The entire house runs on solar.”

This demonstration project is expected to provide learning to resolve bottlenecks related to renewable energy. If the project proves to be economically viable, the plan is to replicate it in other rural areas in Gujarat.

Said Mr. Bhardwaj: “This kind of project acts as a demonstration project for other villages and towns in India. And similarly, the other villages and towns can adopt this model to become self-dependent, self-sufficient in the energy needs.”

Modhera resident Ashaben Mahendrabhai summed up the benefits.

“I would encourage the other villages also to put solar as it is beneficial in all aspects, from saving money to saving electricity,” she said.

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