In Bihar, India, Solar-Powered Mini Grids Are Slowly Transforming Livelihoods
By Jyoti Shelar
In Derni Bazar, about 70 km from Bihar’s capital Patna, a private school with about 400 children, reeled under darkness for long. The frequent power outages restricted teachers from holding evening classes. Excessive heat in the cramped classrooms made the children restless, often distracting them from studying. But this has changed in the past one year when the school got access to an alternate source of electricity through a solar-powered mini-grid that was set up in the area. Now, when there is a power cut, the school automatically switches to the mini-grid back-up.
A mini-grid is a smaller electricity generation plant that runs on solar power and acts as a solution to those who have no access or unreliable access to the national grid.
“Children would get impatient as soon as the electricity went out. Summers were the worst,” says Ankit Singh, director of the National Public School that takes children up to class VIII. While the school hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the extra classes between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. would go empty during a power outage, which could last for anywhere between two to seven hours or sometimes even more.
Photo courtesy of Knut-Erik Helle.