India's first fully solar village lights up the lives of poor residents

Solar panels installed on the rooftops of residential houses in Modhera in the Indian state of Gujarat. PHOTO: REUTERS

MODHERA, India - Mr Kesa Bhai Prajapati beams as he moulds blocks of clay into jugs and vases on a potter’s wheel.

These days, the 68-year-old, from the village of Modhera in western India’s Gujarat state, has doubled the amount of earthenware he makes compared with a few months ago.

He used to turn the wheel manually as he could not afford the high electricity bill that was up to 1,500 Indian rupees (S$26) a month. He no longer has to do so, as his machine now works on solar power.

In October, Mr Prajapati’s village of around 6,500 residents, consisting mainly of potters, tailors, farmers and shoemakers, was declared India’s first village to run entirely on solar energy.

“Electricity has helped us to save time and produce more products,” he said.

India, the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, aims to meet half of its energy demands from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2030, a boost over its previous target of 40 per cent, which the government said it achieved in December 2021.

The project in Modhera, financed by the federal and provincial government at nearly US$10 million (S$14 million), involved setting up over 1,300 rooftop panels on residential and government buildings that were connected to a power plant.

The government buys the excess energy produced by residents if they do not use all the capacity allotted to the households.

With this money, tailor Praveen Bhai, 43, plans to buy a gas connection and stove, since many houses in the village cook food using wood-fired stoves that leave a smoky haze.

“I had to teach the kids under the street lamp. Now they will be able to study inside the house.”

Modhera, also known for its ancient Sun Temple dedicated to the sun god, is situated in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, which is holding elections later this year.

“For a self-reliant India of the 21st century, we have to increase such efforts related to our energy needs,” Mr Modi said in October.

Workers cleaning panels at a solar park in Modhera on Oct 19. PHOTO: REUTERS

For housewife Reena Ben, 36, who works as a tailor part-time, the solar power has hugely aided her work.

She said: “When we got access to solar power, I bought an electric motor worth 2,000 rupees to attach to the sewing machine. Now I am able to sew one or two more clothes daily.” REUTERS

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