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How Greenpeace’s Dream Of A Solar-Powered Village Fell Apart In Just A Few Years

  • A Greenpeace-funded solar energy project in India has become completely defunct just years after it was built, according to local media reports.
  • “When this solar farm went defunct, it was primarily because of two reasons,” Vijay Jayaraj, an India-based researcher said. “One, is the cost of the power and the second is reliability.”
  • “No one uses solar power anymore here,” Ravi Kumar, a local shopkeeper, told an India-based news outlet.

Jayaraj added that non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace often market renewable energy alternatives to remote villagers with little or no electricity in developing countries. Such groups are able to avoid heavy scrutiny since the areas they approach are in dire need for power.

“These programs and solutions don’t talk about the sustainable nature of the programs, the longevity of the programs, what happens when the technologies age or how much of the current demand it could meet,” he said. “So, by pushing these questions under the carpet, these programs have started to take root in a lot of developing countries. India is no exception.”

While some villagers expressed optimism about Dharnai, India, solar facility in 2014, others protested it saying they didn’t want “fake” electricity, according to Mongabay-India. At the time, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, applauded the project and told locals that coal power would diminish over time while solar power would always be around.

“In the first three years, it worked well and people were using it. But after three years the batteries were exhausted and it was never repaired,” Ravi Kumar, a local shopkeeper, told Mongabay-India. “So now, while the solar rooftops, CCTV cameras and other infrastructure are intact, the whole system has become a showpiece for us.”

“No one uses solar power anymore here,” he continued. “The glory of Dharnai has ended.”

The number of solar connections in Dharnai and surrounding neighborhoods with access to the solar grid fell from 255 in 2014 to 120 in 2016, a Nalanda University study published in 2020 concluded. The study blamed high prices associated with solar power and the grid’s unreliability — villagers were warned not to use high power appliances like televisions and refrigerators — on the decreasing connections.

“We left solar connection after using it for one year. How can poor people like us pay such amounts of money?” an anonymous local told Nalanda University. “They used to give electricity only for two hours. During rain, they do not use to give electric supply and so does during the fog in the winter.”

Dharnai was eventually connected to the region’s coal-powered grid in 2016, giving villagers access to a much cheaper and more reliable power source, Mongabay-India reported. Coal power also allowed them to use high-power appliances.

You cannot give advanced technology to less educated or expect peopel just ' given' something, to maintain it .... freebies are never cared for n