Solar electricity lights the maximum number of villages in Chhattisgarh—but barely so. Tucked away in the Barnawapara wildlife sanctuary of Chhattisgarh is a small village, Deba. The national power grid is yet to reach there. But there is no interruption in the scheduled power supply to its 75 households. While power cuts are frequent in grid-connected villages across the state, the only time Deba residents experienced a blackout since they started receiving electricity some seven years ago was in October last year.

The blackout was caused by a powerful lightning. It hit the power transmission cables and damaged the inverter of the solar power plant, recalls Phool Devi, in her 40s. The government officials replaced the inverter within two weeks and the village was illuminated again just before Diwali.

The 4 kilowatt solar power plant, which uses photovoltaic cells to tap solar energy, generates 28 units (1 unit=1kWh) of electricity a day. It is sufficient to light all houses and lanes of Deba with CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) for seven hours without fail: from 4 am to 6 am and from 6 pm to 11 pm. Devi says the solar power plant, installed by Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) in 2003, has been a boon to the village residents who had always relied on kerosene lamps and lanterns. “Now that the village has streetlights, I do not fear snakes or wild animals in the night,” Devi says with a grin. She is happy her children now study even after nightfall.

imageSolar business is booming in Chhattisgarh following successful implementation of solar powerDeba is one of the 50 villages and hamlets dotting the dense Barnawapara forest that are benefiting from the solar power plants installed under the Remote Village Electrification Programme of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). The programme, as the name suggests, aims to electrify villages and hamlets in remote and difficult areas such as forests, hills and deserts of the country, which are not feasible to be linked with the national grid, using renewable energy. Solar power is popular for such electrification due to its abundance and simple plugand- play nature of the technology.