Apartment complexes in Bengaluru are embracing solar energy by installing solar roof panels to not only bring down their spending on power bills but also to reduce their carbon footprint.
In one of the largest such initiatives not only in the city but also the country, ARK Serene County in Bengaluru went for a 106 kW roof plant costing the apartment dwellers a total of Rs 57 lakh approximately.
Amit Kumar, a resident of the complex in Channasandra, Whitefield, said, “We gifted ourselves, the city and country an 80-acre greenspace by reducing our carbon footprint by going the solar way.”
“Being a large community of 280 flats our power consumption needs are quite high. There was always a thought in mind if we can do something using solar power. Since it’s a clean source of energy, it will reduce our carbon footprint. As per well-accepted statistics, with 100KW power generation, it is helping the environment as much as having two Lalbagh-sized (40x2=80 acres) greenery,” he added.
Amit said that few enthusiasts like him proposed the idea in the apartments general body meeting and were successful in convincing all the resident members to support the cause despite the high upfront cost.
“Based on calculations, we hope to break even our investment in four and a half years and reap benefits of solar energy for next 20 years without any significant maintenance cost, as most of the equipment is covered under warranty,” he explained.
To elucidate, Amit explained that usually the electricity bill for the common area of their complex usually comes to Rs 1.6 lakh per month.
“Till now the BESCOM bill we received for a 68-day period from March 22 March to June 1 is Rs 1,13,007. This means a savings of approx 70% per month. The plant is generating power more than our target savings of Rs 1 lakh per month. We will use these savings to replenish the corpus fund,” he said.
Further with BESCOM increases charges to consumers every year so this means higher saving from solar due to very little consumption from BESCOM grid. Currently, BESCOM pays Rs 3.5 per unit for solar power generators contributing to their grid.
Inspired by their success story, many other apartment complexes too are replicating this model. Mantri Astra in Hennur has installed a 10 KW plant while Chartered Coronet Apartments located in Arakere has started with a 20 KW plant.
Many other apartments like Brigade Petunia in Banashankari, Brigade Metropolis in Mahadevpura are also trying out solar power on a pilot basis.
Srikanth Narasimhan, General Secretary of Bangalore Apartment Federation which has 250 members, said, “So far close to 10 of our member apartment complexes are using solar energy and all of them are all happy with the experience. Many of us are at the process of evaluation. Currently, we have members who have installed 20 KW to 100 KW plants. The general feeling is that within four years or less they will break even the initial capital expenditure costs. We are also closely interacting with BESCOM closely to remove all bottlenecks.”
Push from authorities
A top BESCOM official on condition of anonymity said, “There is push from our side and the government to encourage customers to utilise their free roof space for power generation even though it is bad for business. For every customer, we draw an agreement that in coordination with the regulatory authority (KERC). At present we are giving Rs 3.50 on average to the customer for every unit they contribute to the grid. This means as we are losing out on the number of units we could have sold otherwise at the market rate.”
The source added, "Currently, we are running a pilot in Malleshwaram area where we are helping residents understand what and how can they start generating their own power depending on their financial capability. We will slowly expand this to other parts of the city."
Pujarini Sen, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, said, “Countless residents have already seen a huge reduction in the amount, and in some cases, completely doing away with electricity bills – depending on the amount of solar power they have installed. Not only does this help the individuals and make the country less dependent on pollution-causing fossil fuel generated energy, but also helps create employment in India. The residential solar rooftop sector has the highest job creation potential as compared to any other solar installations – even ultra mega solar power projects.”
“This will help the nation meet its Paris Agreement targets and create green jobs in the country. Most Indian cities and towns have a massive untapped solar rooftop potential,” she added.