SunEdison, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc., announced a rural electrification program called Eradication of Darkness. Through the program, SunEdison will design, install and manage distributed-generation solar power plants, to provide electricity to Indian villages that have never before had access to electricity.
According to the United Nations, one in five people in the world do not have electricity. Over 400,000 of these people live in India. Lack of electricity limits education and economic opportunities and makes populations more vulnerable to sickness and famine. The SunEdison Eradication of Darkness Program aims to address this situation.
“This program is making electricity accessible to citizens in India who have never dreamt of having it in their homes or workplaces. We have the opportunity to improve standards of living by enabling sustainable changes in the lifestyles, health, education and community affairs of thousands of people,” said Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer of MEMC. “We are excited to be the catalyst for this kind of remarkable transformation.”
“The day-to-day challenges faced by people who do not have electricity are beyond imagination to many of us,” Chatila continued. “Being able to improve people’s lives is an honor, and we are committed to continuing this effort in collaboration with the people of India.”
The program will be implemented in stages. There are 29 villages in the Guna District that have been identified for the next phase. Appropriate financial and other partners are being sought to electrify these remote communities.
Solar Leadership in India
Today, SunEdison has become a leader in solar power in India with over 50MW of interconnected solar electricity. The company’s projects range from small rooftop installations to South Asia’s largest solar field to completing an innovative 1 MW project suspended over the Narmada Canal, both in Gujarat. This project is conserving drinking water while producing clean energy.
More Than an Engineering Project
“As challenging as logistics are in rural electrification, it is important that residents have a voice in the development, deployment and management of a solution,” said Pashupathy Gopalan, Managing Director, South Asia and Sub-Sarahan Operations, SunEdison. “We have worked very hard to understand their needs and provide education about the possibilities of electricity. We believe education is one the most important aspects to ensuring the project’s success.”
SunEdison recently completed the installation of a 14-kilowatt solar energy plant in Meerwada, India that is supplying electricity to 400 villagers. Before this project was implemented residents walked three kilometers for drinking water, and kerosene lamps were the only source of lighting. SunEdison personnel spent weeks with residents selecting the optimal site for the power plant, providing safety education, and establishing a council that will maintain and protect the system from vandalism or theft.
MEMC/SunEdison designed and engineered the Meerwada project in 2011 as a pilot-case for rural electrification. The additional 29 planned villages in the Guna District are expected to be funded through a combination of government grants and private funds from other investors and corporations. Implementing the next 29 villages is intended to test and develop a successful business model that will enable the electrification of even more villages around the world.