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Auroville Articles: Renewable Energy

In keeping with its ideals of sustainability and self-sufficiency, Auroville seeks to promote renewable energy for its development needs. Fossil fuels represent a limited source of energy, and their use causes depletion of natural resources, severe atmospheric pollution and climate change. In contrast, renewable energy sources, such as sunlight, wind, and biomass are practically inexhaustible and cause minimal environmental impact.

Auroville units, such as the Auroville Centre for Scientific Research (CSR), Aurore, Auroville Energy Products and Aureka have demonstrated the feasibility of renewable energy systems, by successfully installing them in Auroville and other parts of India.

Looking Back
Many early Auroville settlements depended entirely on renewable energy systems such as wind pumps, biogas plants, solar water heaters and photovoltaic solar panels. As such systems were not widely used in India at the time, very little research and development was being conducted in this field.

Auroville, however, drawing on its own first-hand experience, subsequently improved upon existing renewable energy systems, particularly in the field of wind pumps and biogas plants. Major renewable energy institutions in India, such as the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Govt. of India, and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), recognizing Auroville's interest and commitment, became partners in the township's research and development efforts.

Current Achievements
Auroville units have successfully installed renewable energy systems, not only within the township area but also in other parts of India. Aurore is a leading renewable energy unit in Auroville that uses innovative concepts to set up renewable energy enterprises in India, to productively network with related organizations in India, and to design or develop renewable energy products. It provides technological expertise, managerial support and occasionally seed capital to the new enterprises it helps to set up. CSR conolidates various environment-related research activities in Auroville.
It is a growing centre of learning that offers workshops and conferences, to promote sustainable use of resources. Auroville Energy Products concentrates on the production and distribution of electronic control systems for renewable energy installations.

Solar Energy
Photovoltaic cells for lighting purposes are widely used in many houses in Auroville.

A solar power plant in the centre of Auroville generates 150 kW daily for lighting the Matrimandir. It is one of the largest stand alone photovoltaic power plants in India, and serves as a test case for decentralized power generation.

CSR has also constructed a very large (15 meter diameter) solar concentrator that produces steam for cooking meals at Auroville's Solar Kitchen, which feeds 1,000 persons a day. Aurore has installed solar photovoltaic array cells for pumping water in Auroville, the surrounding states, and other parts of India. Aurore has successfully developed and disseminated in India, solar lanterns and solar-tracking systems. Various equipment related to the use of solar energy are either assembled or manufactured by Auroville units. Several prototype electric vehicles charged by photovoltaics have been developed in Auroville.

Wind Energy
Aureka has developed a multi-blade windmill, the "AV 55", for pumping water. Nationally recognized for its efficiency, "AV 55" windmills are now marketed in India and are also exported to African and Asian countries.

Auroville Energy Products has installed a wind-diesel generator in Gujarat, and is implementing a mega-project in West Bengal that consists of 10 wind generators of 50 kW each plus two 180 kVA diesel generators.

Recognizing India's latent potential for micro hydro-electricity projects, Auroville Energy Products has designed small hydro electricity plants that can be assembled by the local people. Four such plants have been installed in hilly regions in India.

CSR developed India's first prefabricated biogas plants in ferrocement and subsequently improved on its design. It now installs biogas plants inside and outside Auroville.

Looking Ahead
Auroville looks forward to being a place that will depend primarily, or even solely, on renewable sources for all its energy needs. It constantly seeks to collaborate with and learn from experiments in renewable energy systems elsewhere in the world, and to share its knowledge and expertise in this field with others.

Auroville is one of the largest sites for the use and promotion of renewable energy technologies in India.




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