Fed up with energy woes, enterprising Nepalese tap solar power

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    Companies are investing in the alternative energy, despite high initial costs, to provide a dependable power source that saves money in the long run.

    For nearly a decade, power cuts of up to 14 hours a day due to constant load-shedding have been the way of life for Nepalese. The nation’s energy crisis has affected every national activity, from industrial operations to the day-to-day lighting of homes.

    Now, thanks to the ingenuity of one enterprising Nepali, business owners and entrepreneurs are exploring an efficient, alternative energy source to quench their thirst for power: the sun.

    Gham (Solar) Power is the technical partner that helps companies like Shine Exhibits Pvt. Ltd. and Biruwa Ventures keep the energy flowing. Gham’s CEO, Sandeep Giri, 41, told Khabar South Asia he started the company by accident.

    “I was looking to establish a software company in Nepal, but the severe power crisis got me into thinking: ‘Why not import the latest technology on solar and start powering Nepal?'” said Giri, who hails from Kathmandu but now lives in San Francisco, United States.

    Established in 2010, his company has installed solar systems in over 300 households and 50 institutions. It provides clients financing for high installation costs and offers subsidised services to social organisations like hospitals.

    High start-up costs recouped

    Representatives of Gham Power Pvt. Ltd. install solar panels at Biruwa Ventures in Kathmandu. Gham Power has already installed solar systems in more than 300 households and 50 institutions. The company provides financing to offset initial high costs.
    Representatives of Gham Power Pvt. Ltd. install solar panels at Biruwa Ventures in Kathmandu. Gham Power has already installed solar systems in more than 300 households and 50 institutions. The company provides financing to offset initial high costs.

    Prominent national radio broadcaster Ujyaalo News Network achieved energy independence at its headquarters in December 2012 after installing solar panels that generate 10kw of power on the terrace of its building in the Jawalakhel area of Lalitpur district.

    “Since our inception, [in 2007] we had plans to use solar energy,” Ujyaalo Director Gopal Guragain, 50, told Khabar, saying the high installation costs were a deterrent at the time.

    “But the increasing power cuts and decrease in the cost of solar due to tax waivers on the import of solar panels, convinced us that it was time to make the switch,” he said. “Our solar system fulfills the energy needs of all our employees round the clock.”

    He is confident Ujyaalo’s NRs 2.5m ($28,746) switch to solar will be recovered.

    “Our electricity bills have decreased significantly,” said Guragain. “We use next to no electricity from Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), and our expenses of running diesel-powered generators during load-shedding have also been eliminated.

    Solar panels collect energy from the terrace of Ujyaalo News Network, a radio broadcaster that switched to solar power in December 2012 at a cost of NRs. 2.5m ($28,742). The panels accommodate round-the-clock energy demands of the station's employees.
    Solar panels collect energy from the terrace of Ujyaalo News Network, a radio broadcaster that switched to solar power in December 2012 at a cost of NRs. 2.5m ($28,742). The panels accommodate round-the-clock energy demands of the station’s employees.

    “Most importantly, our employees can now work without worrying about the power outages. We have been encouraging our partner radio stations around the country to switch to solar too.”

    A bright idea for bus stops

    Infrastructure development company Shine Exhibits Pvt. Ltd. found a creative use for solar power— lighted bus stops. When the city falls dark during nighttime power outages, a few bus stops remain alight. Harish Agrawal, 32, managing director of Shine Exhibits, said the idea came after NEA cut power to street lights and billboards.

    “These solar bus stands provide a safe shelter for all travelers at all times of the day, as well as in the night,” the Kathmandu native told Khabar. “Being of international standards, these bus stands also add to the aesthetics of the city.”

    Some 22 bus stops in the capital are now solar-powered, with plans for 100 in two years, according to Agrawal. Shine Exhibits also manages and cleans the stops, and sells advertising space in them to generate income.

    Commuters wait at a solar-powered bus stop at Ratnapark, Kathmandu. Infrastructure development company Shine Exhibits Pvt. Ltd. has installed 22 solar-powered bus stops around the Valley, offering safe places to wait – especially during nighttime load-shedding.
    Commuters wait at a solar-powered bus stop at Ratnapark, Kathmandu. Infrastructure development company Shine Exhibits Pvt. Ltd. has installed 22 solar-powered bus stops around the Valley, offering safe places to wait – especially during nighttime load-shedding.

    The next frontier

    More Nepalese companies are moving to solar power to offset power-cut losses. Biruwa Ventures provides shared office space, consulting services and financing to entrepreneurs and small non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It recently installed solar panels that generate 1.5kw of power at its facility in Kathmandu.

    “It is critical that we are able to provide continuous power to our clients,” co-founder Abhinab Bashnyat told Khabar. “Our mission is to flatten entry barriers for start-ups.”

    Giri said remote areas not yet reached by electrical transmission lines are the next frontier for his venture.

    Solar power can bring more than just light and heat to such places. “It can be used to provide basic services like telemedicine, financial services, and Internet services,” Giri said.

     

    Source : Khabar South Asia