While visiting India, I spent a couple of days in Mangalore, a coastal city about 900 kms south of Bombay (Mumbai). I was taken around by Hemalatha Rao, SELCO India’s Karnataka operations chief to see some of their rural and urban implementations. SELCO was founded by Harish Hande after he completed his Ph. D. from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Harish’s objective was to provide affordable energy solutions, initially with solar energy, to the underserved rural areas of India. I wrote a short column about my visit in Lokvani (reproduced below). I have also put a number of photos from this tour on this page.
SELCO India – Bringing Light To The Rural Poor, Raj Melville, Lokvani.com, 04/03/2008
Zooming past the lush paddy fields in Udupi, perched on the pillion of a motorcycle, I was whisked off the paved roads to a hamlet of a half a dozen houses tucked away in rural Karnataka. My host, Pravin, a sales technician for SELCO India, allowed me to shadow him on his rounds to his customers. The first stop was at farmer’s home, a three room house at the edge of their small plot of land. Miles away from the nearest town, it did not have access to modern amenities like electricity, running water or phone service.
The young farmer who met us at the door was obviously pleased to see Pravin and proudly escorted us to the one piece of technology in their humble abode. A single wire ran across the wall to a fluorescent light and a wall plug. A transistor radio plugged in provided the only form of entertainment. Outside, above the roof, a rectangular solar panel was perched on a pole, capturing the plentiful sunlight and converting it to electricity that was stored in a battery to be used by this family at night. This simple setup powered four lights in the house – in the kitchen, a bedroom, the hallway and at the entrance – and provided up to four hours of light in the evening. Continue reading