There are no electric poles on the tiny island village of Baleswar in Assam's Nalbari district of Assam. Even then, you can see people using fans and lights, charging their cell phones and even operating computers! All thanks to solar power. Setting an eco-friendly trend, the villagers of Baleswar, like in many other nearby island-villages, are using solar panels to harness solar energy, which in turn helps them run their electrical equipments.
"We don't have any power cuts, like our fellow brethren in the city!" quipped Rekibul Rahman, one of the island dwellers who runs a tailoring shop. Rahman's shop's light and fan runs in the evening with the power generated by the solar panel. "These solar panels are a common sight in our village, and in the nearby villages too. You will see them in front of shops and homes; the price of the panel depends on how much power you need," Rahman explained to IANS.
"For instance, the panel that I have generates enough power through the day to charge the battery, which will in turn run a light and a fan, which is my requirement. It can also charge my mobile phone. The panel has 35 small, circular solar plates and cost me around Rs.4,000," he added.
Assam village going solar
The price of these panels corresponds to the power requirement and are available for sale in the nearby town of Nalbari, about 70 km from Guwahati. Lakshmi Pegu, a homemaker and mother of three, has a hint of pride in her voice as she shows the lights and fans in her rooms. "These solar panels have really changed our lives! I no longer cook under the kerosene lamp, and my son can study with ample light; when it gets hot, we can use the fan. Just like my sister does at her home in the town," Pegu smiled.
Ainul Hussain, a farmer, has a computer at home. "We have to be careful with its usage, because it needs a lot of energy to run. My son operates it and it is for him that I bought it," he said. "These panels are available in Nalbari, but I bought mine from Guwahati. I had to shell out about Rs.10,000, which is a large amount for a simple man like me, but our quality of life has improved. So it's all worth it," he added.
According to Rahman, nearly 70 percent of homes in Baleswar have solar panels. The population on this tiny village-island is around 1,500.At the government level, the Assam Energy Development Agency (AEDA) has been promoting non-conventional energy sources like solar, wind and biomass for industrial and domestic use, especially in remote rural, hilly and border areas which are connected to the conventional grid.
More than a thousand villages in Assam have been electrified using solar energy till date."During monsoons, our island often gets cut off from the rest of the world. The mobile phone has been a blessing -- we can keep in touch with our relatives and even seek help by a call. And all of that has been possible because of these panels. At the end, it's nature which has come to our rescue," Pegu signed off with a simple, yet powerful thought.