Clean Tech

Solar sparks change in Varanasi

Our Bureau | Updated on September 26, 2019 Published on August 14, 2019

A TERI initiative helps Varanasi’s boatmen and weavers become eco-friendly

The placid waters of the river Ganga in Varanasi are dotted by motorboats that take visitors on a tour of the ghats of the holy city. Powered by diesel, the boats cause both air and water pollution while the noise created by their motor adds to the sound levels in an already bustling and crowded urban environment.

But luckily, all this has changed since the introduction of solar-powered motorboats, with efforts continuing to bring all the 5,000 boats into the clean energy ambit.

It started in 2016, when an e-boat project supplied solar-powered lead acid batteries to 11 boatmen to run their boats. This, however, did not enjoy much favour with them as the batteries were around 200 kg in weight, making their charging a herculean task.

“The heavy batteries were difficult to replace, so to make the idea work we have introduced lithium batteries of about 28 kg which are easier to carry to the charging stations. As we go forward, we are planning to have two sets of batteries of 12 to 14 kg each. That should solve the charging and replacement problem,” says Jitendra Tiwari, Field Manager, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who is co-ordinating the project. The intervention is part of TERI’s Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) programme, under which boatmen are provided solar-powered batteries to run their boats, replacing diesel as fuel. While telecom company Indus Tower is assisting the initiative through its CSR funding, co-funding has been mobilised from the community.

Apart from helping boatmen, TERI has also worked on transforming the lives of Varanasi’s weavers who toil to hand-produce the famous Banarasi saree. All these years the weavers had to contend with erratic electricity supply. Often, they had to work all night to complete orders and at other times power breakdowns would cause threads to get entangled in the loom, leading to wastage of raw material as well as the weavers’ precious time and energy.

Once again, with CSR funding from Indus Towers, TERI has developed a hybrid solar charging model that is fed into an inverter through a solar charge controller and used as a power back-up for the loom. Of course, the weaver has to pitch in a percentage of the cost to set up the system, but with energy supply becoming seamless due to this intervention, the takers for the project are increasing.

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Published on August 14, 2019
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