Dheeraj Dreams Building No 1 CHSL and Building No 3 CHSL, which are massive residential societies situated in Bhandup west, off LBS Marg in Mumbai, decided to adopt solar energy in 2018 to power shared amenities like their lifts, water pumps, parking area and other shared common spaces. Facilitating their transition to solar energy was Oorjan Cleantech, a technology and finance-enabled distributed solar company founded in November 2014 offering renewable energy solutions to residential, commercial and industrial consumers.
“We have installed solar power capacity worth 310 KWp (kilowatt peak) in Building No.1 and 3, which generates about a combined 4,50,000 units of electricity annually (1 KWp of Solar panel generates about 4 units in a day), and saves about Rs 58 lakh a year in electricity costs,” claims Gautam Das, Co-founder and CEO of Oorjan Cleantech, speaking to The Better India. (Image above of Gautam Das on the left and solar panels at Dheeraj Dreams on the right.)
In Building No 1 CHSL, an investment of about Rs 85 lakh went into constructing panels with a solar capacity of 180 KWp. The project is on the verge of breaking even in barely three years.
“The savings amount to Rs 30 lakh to 34 lakh per annum, which will continue for the next 25 years from the year of installation,” says Binu K Geevarghese, chairman of Building 1.
Similarly, for Building No 3 CHS, where Rs 65 lakh was invested to install panels with a solar capacity of 130 KWp, the project is expected to break even in about 3 years since installation. Moreover, it saves about Rs 24 lakh per annum, which will continue for the next 25 years as well from the year of installation, claim the executives at Oorjan Cleantech.
Powering a Community with Solar Energy
Just to get a sense of the scale of Oorjan’s work in these residential societies, one can delve a little further into features of the solar power system installed in Building No. 1 CHSL. The large housing societies consist of 622 flats in four 20-storey towers. They wanted to cut down their high electricity expenditure on running its 12 lifts, five water pumps and common lighting areas.
“So, as in the case of an ideal democratic setup, the society members brainstormed and went through a rigorous tendering process calling in over 30 applicants from Maharashtra and neighbouring states. After a careful and comprehensive study about Oorjan and its services, the society awarded us the task to install a premium quality system for them. It has been about three years since our system went live and they are very happy to see the huge savings in its power bills and feel proud to have gone green. Installed in 2018, it’s one of the largest rooftop solar systems on a residential building in Mumbai,” explains Gautam.
Initially, there were some objections to setting up this solar power project by the committee members of Building No.1, when the idea was first mooted about four years ago.
“There were apprehensions about the feasibility of the project and its benefits, but my guess is this was more about their lack of awareness regarding the benefits of solar power. It took us a while to help members understand how this system would work and its benefits down the line. Finally, about three years ago, we managed to install it. It took around three to four months to install this solar power plant and we went live in 2018,” recalls Binu.
Despite the high initial investment, which Building 1 financed through taking out a loan, their monthly savings on electricity is on average about Rs 3 lakh per month, claims Binu.
“We already paid back about 60 per cent of the loans taken to install this solar power system within two years of installation. I would recommend setting up solar power systems to other building societies if they have the proper area given its long term benefits with the costs slightly offset by government subsidies they can obtain in setting them up,” he goes on to add.
Financing Massive Solar Projects
“We offer reasonably advanced technology to optimise solar power generation. Installation for each project (Building No.1 or 3) takes about three months, including permissions from the government. Solar power is commercially viable with very healthy returns,” says Gautam.
Despite massive savings on electricity costs, many are still hesitating to adopt solar power in India. The primary stumbling block, Gautam believes, is the high upfront cost of installing a solar power system. What Oorjan does to address this is provide customers with the option of paying 20 per cent of the cost upfront, while they help raise 80 per cent through banks, NBFCs or themselves.
“This happens if the customer is financially disciplined and hasn’t defaulted on too many loans. If the credit (CIBIL) score is good, we offer our customers interest rates of less than 10 per cent. Our objective is to facilitate loans at sub-10 per cent interest rates. The money they save on installing solar power will be enough to pay EMIs on these loans. What we do is enable the adoption of solar power by offering financial solutions as well. With major corporate clients, meanwhile, we enter into power purchasing agreements, wherein they pay for every unit of electricity generated for a given period like five years, while we also do the job of completely installing and operating the solar power system,” explains Gautam.
Oorjan also provides turnkey solutions to customers who are looking to install solar panels on their rooftops. Services like engineering, procuring solar panels, commissioning, liaising with authorities, and financing are all done by the company on behalf of the customer.
“Customers don’t have to visit any government department, procure any material or any sort of permission from the municipality, State government, etc. We take care of all the hassles. Our end-to-end solar solution covers easy financing, expert designing, compliant installation and final commissioning followed by easy mobile app-based monitoring,” says Gautam.
Meanwhile, their projects are remotely tracked through an IoT system. Oorjan can track the performance of the solar power system remotely and also check using data analysis how the given system is doing and how much better it can do.
“Depending on the results, we send our people over to facilitate any on-ground checks and repairs, and the downtime on any of our projects is nearly zero,” he claims. This is what they’re doing in residential societies like Dheeraj Dream, where the company has installed more than 1,600 solar panels. Since its launch in 2014, the company has acquired 1500+ customers across 15 states/UTs and enabled the adoption of more than 100 MWp of solar projects.
Thousands of people in India are turning to solar energy to power their houses, factories and workplaces and that will hopefully have a significant impact on climate change. The Indian government has an ambitious target of 100GW (~USD 100 Billion) solar capacity deployed by 2022, out of which 40 per cent is rooftop, which means solar rooftop photovoltaic (PV) especially among urban residential buildings users, should ideally be prioritised.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)