Case Study 14
Rural Electrification Using Photovoltaics in Ladakh, India
Energy and Resources Group
University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050
Keywords:Ladakh, India, photovoltaic, rural electrification, S
In the Ladakh region of India, government funded photovoltaic (PV) systems are
used for rural electrification. The system capital costs are covered by the
government; homeowners must pay for maintenance costs. Systems have been installed
by several agencies. One, an NGO called the Social Work and Research Centre
(SWRC), has successfully installed long lasting systems. Two contributing factors
to their success are the SWRC's development of a maintenance infrastructure
for PV systems and Indian government standards on the design and installation
of PV systems.
The SWRC's success contributes to a high demand for PV among Ladakhi villagers.
Local policymakers have responded by allocating money for PV. However, the focus
is on installing new systems, not on building a maintenance infrastructure.
There is a danger that despite the SWRC's positive example, a large number of
PV systems will be installed without provision for maintenance.
Ladakh is an isolated high desert in northern India. The 100,000 sq. km region
is sparsely populated by subsistence farmers and nomadic herders (pop. 170,000).
Approximately 85% of the population has some access to electricity. Plans are
in place to electrify the remaining portion in the next few years, mostly using
Barriers for PV electrification include mountainous terrain, bad roads, a harsh
winter climate, low population density, and a lack of skilled technicians and
managers. To date, low rural per capita income (estimated at $US 45/yr) has
not proven problematic, but only because of large subsidies.
PV electrification is funded by the Indian Government. Funds are distributed
to NGOs and private contractors through state and local government agencies.
PV systems cost about $US 450, and consist of a 35 watt solar panel, a 75 Ahr
deep cycle battery, a charge controller with low voltage disconnect, and 2 fluorescent
lamps (9-11 watt). The winter solar resource in Ladakh allows for three hours
of lighting per day.
PV systems are popular among villagers and policymakers. Reasons include low
cost per electrified family, short installation times, and a reputation for
reliability. Of 200 surveyed systems, 71% were fully functional, 27% were partially
functional, and 2% were non-functional. However, the average age of the surveyed
systems was only 2.4 years; more failures are likely to occur in time.
The short-term success of the systems is in part because government standards
require the use of quality components.
PV System Maintenance:
There are two arrangements for maintaining PV systems. The most common is a
one year warranty on parts and labour. After one year these systems generally
are not properly maintained, as family incomes are low and no businesses in
Ladakh service PV systems or sell the appropriate components.
Approximately 1,000 of the systems were installed by the SWRC, a local NGO in
the Tilonia school network in India. The SWRC has done an excellent job of developing
a village level maintenance infrastructure for servicing its PV systems. The
programme includes an extensive hands-on training programme for village technicians.
Homeowners pay a monthly fee ($US 0.70, covers ~50% of the post-technician training
maintenance cost) in exchange for a ten year maintenance contract. Many of the
SWRC systems still operate with their original batteries; a few of these systems
are ten years old.
Unfortunately, system owners who are not in the SWRC network do not have access
to their maintenance programme; this is due in part to the large distances between
Success of PV Leads to More Installations:
The demand for electricity in Ladakh and the success of the SWRC's PV electrification
programme have created pressure on local officials to install more systems.
The response was to allocate funds for 2,000 systems for 1997 to 1999.
However, most of these installations will not follow the SWRC's methodology.
Instead, the focus is on installing new systems; little money or time is allocated
to developing a maintenance infrastructure. This approach will likely result
in future problems, as systems that are not maintained will fail prematurely.
Approximately 5,000 PV systems are installed in Ladakh; 25% of the population
is receiving electricity from solar energy. However, 70% of these installations
have occurred in the last three years, and lack of maintenance may prove problematic.
- The long life of the SWRC installed systems contributes to the positive
reputation of PV, but has not lead to the development of a maintenance infrastructure
for the larger number of PV systems installed by other agencies.
- Several elements contribute to the success of SWRC installations:
- Systems are installed using quality components according to government design
- Systems are maintained carefully by village level technicians. Spare parts
Lack of funding is not an issue due to subsidies. Replication of this work
will require access to capital.
Jacobson, A., 1997: Renewable Energy Resource Data Collection in Ladakh, India.Technical
Report Delivered to the Ladakh Ecological Development Group.
Maithel, Malhotra, Prasad, and Singh, 1998: Renewable Energy Plan for Ladakh
Region. Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi.
MNES, 1996: Solar Energy Group of the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources,
Document No. 32/371/96-97/PV/SE, Government of India.
Mr. Sonam Dawa, Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council,
Leh, Ladakh 194101, India. Tel: 91-1982-52397 Fax: 91-1982-52212.
Mr. Anchuk Colon, Director, Social Work and Research Center (SWRC), Leh, Ladakh