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India blackout shines light on solar alternative

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 01:43

Aug. 1 - The failure of India's northern electricity grid this week has shone a light on the massive demand for power in a country that is struggling to maintain supply. It has also bolstered efforts to develop solar power as an alternative, particularly in the country's more remote regions. As Tara Cleary reports, residents of one small village in central India's Meerwada district are seeing the results for themselves with solar power lighting up their lives in ways they could never have imagined.

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Manohar Bai is catching up on her sewing. She lives in a village in India's Meerwada district, many miles from the outer reaches of the national electricity grid. But thanks to a pilot project by U.S. company, SunEdison, Manohar and her neighbours are now enjoying solar power. SOUNDBITE: MANOHAR BAI, MEERWADA RESIDENT, SAYING (Hindi): "Electricity has changed our lives completely. If our children have an exam the next morning, they can study in the evening, an option they didn't have before. I can also operate the sewing machine at night. I can spend some hours sewing and catch up on the orders I get." Around 40 percent of India's population lacks access to electricity. SunEdison's installation here provides solar power at a heavily subsidised price, allowing villagers to cut down on costly fuels like kerosene. But for the nation as a whole, there's still a long way to go, says SunEdison's Rahul Sankhe. SOUNDBITE: RAHUL SANKHE, MANAGING DIRECTOR (INDIA OPERATIONS), SUN EDISON, SAYING (English): "The overall electricity requirement for the country in the next two decades, by 2030, is itself going to be close to 800,000 megawatts of total generation required to meet the growth aspirations of the country and today we are at 200,000 megawatt. So you can see the 600,000-megawatt gap." SunEdison says that if the project is successful it can be rolled out in other areas. Providing a boost to existing government plans to increase solar power across the country. And helping to ensure that India's isolated villages no longer get left in the dark. Tara Cleary, Reuters.

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India blackout shines light on solar alternative

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 01:43