A mission to live the green life
By Gokul M Nair | Express News Service | Published: 30th March 2017 03:31 AM |
CHENNAI: The entrance to D Suresh’s Kilpauk home is hard to miss — a humongous grove of bamboo trees in the garden next to the gate, the creepers hanging from it give it a tropical appearance. Or, as Suresh himself says, “I’ve created a jungle for myself !” The unique greenery, though, is not the only claim to fame he has. Popularly known as ‘Solar’ Suresh, he was one of the fi rst few in the city to install solar panels in his home, apart from other green and power-saving initiatives.
City Express talks to the urban pioneer on what got him started on doing more with less power!
A graduate of IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad, Suresh worked in the corporate world for 50 years, especially in textiles and manufacturing. But his fondness for renewable energy sparked when he saw people in Germany harnessing solar energy for running rooftop solar fans. “I thought if a country that receives minimum sunshine — even during summers — can adopt solar energy, why can’t we in Chennai, where the sun blazes all year round?” he says.
Though he thought of that idea several years ago, it was only in 2012 that he was able to install a 1kW solar panel on the roof of his house.
“I realised large vendors weren’t interested in small scale projects — they were looking at projects above 50 KW,” he says. It took him around six years to find a vendor. “As I was experimenting with it, I used the fi rst solar panel to run the lights, fans, TV, computer, and refrigerator. In 2015, after I upgraded to 3 KW, I added the AC, washing machine, mixie and pump — so that means except the water heater and oven, everything else was running on solar photovoltaic energy!” When people learnt about this, he soon became the talk of the town. “I broke several myths regarding solar energy — that it is not viable, that it produces gases, or that it is expensive.
Apart from the initial installation cost, for the last fi ve years, I have not had a single day without electricity!” The only exception was one day during cyclone Vardah — but that was bearable when the entire neighbourhood didn’t have power for four days! “The return on investment is immense, and since the life of the panel is 25 years, there is no maintenance cost at all,” he adds. “In fact, to popularise solar energy, the Tamil Nadu Government has initiated the Net Metering scheme where you can install panels without batteries, and whatever excess electricity you produce is fed to the grid. When you drop off the grid in the evening, the balance gets adjusted.”
For corporate companies, the Government also has a benefit known as Accelerated Depreciation, which offers 80% depreciation on income tax, he explains. There are also lots of entrepreneurial opportunities for students and start-ups. His popularity through solar initiatives led him to address other problems through green energy. “I’m not a technologist — I just approach problems as a common man and try to fi nd an applicable solution!” he says.
An acquaintance introduced him to biogas, and he quickly installed it behind his home – today it generates enough cooking fuel through solid waste. “Another by-product from this is the compost, which I use on my terrace garden. I grow around 15 types of vegetables,” he says, as he walks us around the area which is already filled with pots and plants.
As if this was not enough, he had installed a rainwater harvesting system 20 years ago, even before people were familiar with the term. “I saw people in Gujarat doing this to capture water and store it, and replenish the ground water table. In fact, this helped me create a ‘forest’ in my home!”
Suresh proudly states that he believes no other urban house in India will have so many eco-friendly and energy-saving initiatives at once. But is there something that always inspires him to adopt such clean measures? “I focus on my core philosophy — do not expect the Government to fi nd solutions for you, instead think of how you can assist the government in fi nding a solution,” he says. “I started this also as a way to create more awareness and to build a less-polluting and energy conscious community."