June 11, 2009

Power system collapses after Aila in Sunderbans

Kolkata June 08, 2009: Cyclone Aila which hit West Bengal on May 25, has devastated the entire solar panel set-up in the Sunderbans island, leaving the island completely bereft of electricity.

It is to be noted that the islands of Sunderbans at present do not have any access to grid connectivity and solely depend on solar, biomass and renewable energy sources. Solar power has emerged as the primary source of electrification in most of the inhabited islands in Sunderbans.

“The state government is reviewing the extent of damage.Preliminary estimates suggest that 40 per cent of the household solar power installations have been damaged. As per WBGEDCL's estimate the quantum of damage is likely to be around Rs 50 crore.

Rehabilitation work has started, but it will take some time to repair the damage caused," said S P Gon Chaudhuri, managing director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited (WBGEDCL) on the sidelines of an interactive seminar organised by Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

WBGEDCL, the state nodal agency for promoting use of renewable energy sources, in association with the centre and state rural development department had set up one lakh household solar power installations or solar-powered home lighting systems in Sunderbans area. The largest cluster of solar power system in the country is in the Sunderban islands of which 40 per cent have been damaged now, Gon Chaudhuri informed. The cyclone has washed away or destroyed close to 40,000 solar panels. This apart the storm had damaged 21 clusters of solar and biomass power hubs which supplied electricity to around 10,000 households there.

“The power clusters have been repaired, but the individual house solar panels or the home lighting system is yet to be complete. It will need some more time,”said Gon Chaudhuri.

A large number of villages and islands — which are located on the fringes of the core forest area will remain in darkness unless steps are taken on a war-footing to restore electricity there.

“We will suggest to the government to incorporate new low-cost technologies by which these houses in the coastal areas can both get power through renewable sources and at the same time be rigid and resilient to climate changes and disasters. There are lots of technologies. We will help with the technical input,” said Gon Chaudhuri.

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