While the co-founder of FS Green Labs, Nitin was working in Kolkata for a Solar Skill Development project, he realized that though solar energy can transform the lives of millions living in rural communities in India, selling solar products or just installing the solar plants is not going to help much. He shared his experience and understanding of why nobody is selling a complete solar solution in rural India:
- Lack of formation of local maintenance team
While he visited one of the NGOs during his visit, he saw many solar street lights that were installed around 2 years ago by a solar company. Any battery powered solar system can work for at least 3 to 5 years before it needs a major battery replacement. But the NGO stopped seeing the light coming from almost 80% of those street lights within a year. There should be a trained local maintenance team in place to avoid such problems. No matter how much any solar company would claim to do the maintenance, only a local team can keep the systems running for a long time.
- No basic installation & troubleshooting training for village technicians
Village level technicians can act as a very important part of the whole solution. During the project, Nitin trained the local technician of the village about how to troubleshoot a 7.5 kW solar system if it fails abruptly. This was important because the nearest railway station from that village was 19 kilometers. It would take days for anyone from a city to arrange for a visit to this place, not to forget the cost involved.
- Lack of awareness about solar technology and why is it different from the grid
Though they had electricity after the 7.5 kW system was installed in that area, they must know that it is limited. They must understand that they get electricity when there is sun. Hence, using the solar systems and any other solar product effectively is very important. During the project, Nitin gave a session on using the solar electricity effectively and saving as much energy as possible.
To sum up, when a solar system is sold, it is important to provide the product and the understanding to use, maintain and troubleshoot it to make sure it runs for as long as it is meant to be.