WITH no access to electricity affecting studies and other activities of schoolchildren in remote areas, IIT-Bombay has initiated an ambitious project that aims to provide 1 million SoULs to 1 million students in rural India. Titled ‘Localisation of solar energy through local assembly, sale and usage of 1 million solar urja lamps (SoUL)’, the project attempts to enhance schoolchildren’s night studies, exam preparation and home work, while eliminating kerosene lanterns and wood fires that produce noxious fumes, which are inhaled by children, thus causing health hazards.
“The objectives include localisation in assembly, distribution and service of high quality study lamps, distribution of one million SoULs and research on the impact of solar technology on various socio-economic indicators at the grass-root level. The various project outcomes expected are improvement in attendance and performance of students in schools, reduction in school dropout rate, reduction in kerosene consumption, and employment generation and entrepreneurship development,” said an institute official.
As part of this ‘Right to light’ programme, Techfest, IIT- Bombay’s annual science and technology festival, has floated a competition whereby it has asked participants to design an innovative solar lamp suitable for study.
The aim, according to the Techfest team, is to have more design ideas, which can be implemented as part of the ambitious project.
“This device should be location independent, that is adaptable anywhere in the world and will be used as an open source design. The lamp should be fit for studying purposes, cost effective, able to survive under dusty conditions and preferably be water resistant. The lamp components should be easily assembled and battery should last for more than 1,500 charging-discharging cycles,” said the Techfest problem statement. While the best model will get Rs 5 lakh, the second best model will get Rs 2 lakh. The best design will receive Rs 1 lakh and the best usage of solar energy will also get Rs 1 lakh.
The testing conditions will involve switch evaluation and will be kept in dusty conditions to check the working and stability of the product. For some days during the fest, it will be kept in sunlight and will be used at night to check the backup time.
For the overall SoUL project, the institute has received sanction from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), to distribute one million solar lamps to several states across India.
The total funds for this project is contributed by three partners – 36 per cent from NCEP, 40 per cent from various philanthropic partners, including state governments, trusts, corporate social responsibilities, and 24 per cent will come directly from the student beneficiaries.
“The solar lamps are assembled locally, and used and serviced by locals. By transferring technical skills and knowledge, and training locals to use technology, they cease to become dependent on anyone. Local assembly not only results in employment generation but also allows locals themselves to repair and maintain solar products in future,” said the official.