One in five of the 1.3 billion people in India live without access to electricity. As many as 450 million people in India lack access to reliable power, limiting their socio-economic opportunities.
Despite the staggering darkness that haunts most rural homes in India, nearly 100 houses in Uttar Pradesh’s Sarvantara village saw bulbs glowing. These village homes were electrified, thanks to the initiative of a student from UK’s esteemed Imperial College.
The mini solar grid has facilitated more than 1,000 people with electricity for affordable lighting, fans and phone charging.
Co-founded in 2015 by Clementine and her colleague, Indian social entrepreneur Amit Saraogi, Oorja aims to provide access to clean energy to 450 million people without access to reliable electricity in rural India, while promoting sustainable local economic development.
In an interview with The New Indian Express, Clementine expressed her happiness about the successful project saying, “We are delighted to see smiles on the faces of our happy customers, and hear reports of how electricity is allowing their children to study longer and their hopes that a computer centre will be opened in the school, so the students can learn how to use a computer.”
Majority of the population in Sarvantara are farmers and Clementine hopes to impact and fuel their productivity the most.
“The renewable energy generated will also power pumps to provide irrigation services to farmers, providing significant cost savings compared to diesel-powered pumps,” she says.
The demand for electricity to pump water for irrigation in the villages has surged, after less than average rainfall was predicted.
“They are very relieved that an alternative to expensive diesel pumps will be available, especially as diesel prices in India are expected to get much more expensive, following recent deregulation of the market,” she added.
Clementine intends to expand her project and fit the 100 households with smart meters to enable remote monitoring of energy generation and consumption in real-time. “The data will help Oorja analyse the performance of the system and improve the services they provide,” she said.
According to Imperial College London, the next stage of their project will involve a pilot of a hybrid mini-grid that will generate electricity from solar energy and biomass.
“This could provide a bigger supply of electricity to power small enterprises, such as grain mills, sewing cooperatives and water purification stations in the village,” they said in an official statement.
Clementine as the Chief Technology Officer is responsible for plant design and construction to ensure, Oorja plants are robust, affordable and easy to operate and maintain. She gained her expertise in cost-effective technologies to harness the power of biomass at Imperial College London and holds a first class Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge. Her passion lies in using locally available renewable resources as a catalyst to bring about lasting socioeconomic and environmental change.
The Oorja team plans to raise more funding to enable them to roll out dozen more mini-grids to other villages by 2018.
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