Mehul Mehta still remembers bringing his son Maanav a solar toy two years ago. They had assembled it, he recalls.
This was Maanav’s first exposure to the power of the sun that could make a toy work without reliance on an external electrical battery.
His interest in exploring solar energy was fuelled further when the 12-year-old learned about the benefits of renewable energy at Jamnabai Narsee School. Soon, Maanav came up with an unusual request for his father.
He asked to have solar power generators installed in all of their four bungalows in Madh Island, Mumbai.
Though sceptical at first, the father decided to put his son’s idea to practice and installed solar panels at the cost of Rs 18 lakhs in 2017.
The family that once spent over 35,000 per month on electricity bills at each of their four bungalows was able to reduce their costs by 34%.
Mehul told The Better India that completely dependent on solar power for the most part of the year, barring the monsoons, the family managed to saved more than ₹4 lakh on electricity bills last year.
Apart from saving costs, Maanav even calculated how this one-time instalment with a lifetime use could avoid carbon dioxide emissions by 646 tonnes which is equivalent to planting over 1,033 teak trees.
While the Mehtas live in one of these bungalows, the other three are rented for events and film shoots. They have installed over 80 solar panels with a total combined capacity of 26-kilowatt power (kWp). This output sufficiently covers all of the four homes’ electricity requirements. Even the roads connecting these bungalows are lit by solar-powered lamps.
While the solar grid generates a maximum of 35 units of electricity per day on a sunny day, it generates 14 units on a cloudy day. In a city like Mumbai, a 2BHK apartment consumes about 10-12 units of electricity per day.
The family was more than happy when with the assistance of Devendra Shetye, a green-building consultant, (who also helped them in the solar panel installation), they were able to get a subsidy of ₹5 lakh from the Maharashtra state government.
Mehul is sure that while the capital cost was high, the drastic drop in electric bills over the years coupled with the subsidy will easily help cover the installation charges in the next four years.
He is also happy with the net metering system which ensures that excess electricity generated from the panels is sent back to the main power grid and the user is only charged for the units used.
In a message to families who want to make the switch to the clean and renewable energy, Mehul says, “Do not hesitate. The effort and initial costs are worth the money you will save in the long run while also contributing to greening the planet.”
Apart from utilising solar energy, the Mehtas have also switched to eco-friendly methods like rainwater harvesting and setting up vermiculture pits at their bungalows to produce their manure.
Here’s to kids like Maanav who inspire their parents to adopt ethical practices of production and consumption.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)