First Solar, Inc. and Sir Ratan Tata Trust announced plans to collaborate on a pilot project to provide safe drinking water and irrigation to rural communities in India’s northern Uttarakhand state.
Many remote villages of the middle Himalayas lack basic infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools and electricity. In Uttarakhand, even many villages that are connected to the electricital grid receive only erratic electrical service. In the absence of electric pumps, collecting water from spring sources and carrying it to villages—a job that usually falls to women—can take three to four hours a day.
Through its charitable giving program, First Solar has joined forces with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust to develop a pilot project using First Solar’s advanced, thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules to help off-grid villages in the region receive a reliable supply of clean energy for essential needs such as safe drinking water and irrigation. The aim of the pilot project is to develop an integrated solution that is low-maintenance and simple for the communities to install, maintain and use.
The pilot project, which will be managed under the Trust’s Central Himalayan programme (Himmotthan Pariyojana) by the Himmotthan Society, will consist of two solar PV power plants which will be built in the Chureddhar and Chham (Gunogi) districts, Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. If successful, the pilot project could be replicated across hundreds of villages throughout India. Ganesh Neelam, Development Manager, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, welcomed the support and contribution of First Solar. “We thank First Solar for partnering with us for the installation of this system, which will help us meet our community development goals,” he said.
Anant Naik, First Solar’s Director of Public Affairs in India, said, “We welcome the opportunity to join with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Himmotthan Society, who share our commitment to sustainable development, to harness solar energy to provide safe drinking water in order to improve the quality of life for rural households.”
The Sir Ratan Tata Trust is one of India’s oldest philanthropic organisations. For more than a century, it has provided grants and partnered with organizations that engage in innovative and sustainable initiatives and have the potential to make a visible difference. Sir Ratan Tata Trust’s programme in Uttarakhand has focused on providing rural communities in the region with affordable, long-term solutions for livelihood enhancement and resource management. This pilot would complement on-going livelihood enhancement work by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and field partners through community institutions.
First Solar will donate 100 modules to the pilot project, which will combine First Solar PV modules with water pumps to move water from spring sources into storage tanks in order to provide the village with a safe and convenient water supply. The project will benefit 65 households with a population of 530 individuals in the two villages.
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