Rising power bills: ‘Smart’ schools grow smarter; to tap solar energy in Kerala

The rising electricity costs resulting from classrooms turning smart and digital in the state is driving school authorities towards another smart move - harnessing solar energy. 
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

KOZHIKODE: The rising electricity costs resulting from classrooms turning smart and digital in the state is driving school authorities towards another smart move - harnessing solar energy. While the initial costs may be slightly higher, it is deemed profitable in the long run.Among the factors prompting the authorities to consider switching to solar energy is the fact the KSEB has fixed electricity tariff for schools on a par with that of industrial units.

According to statistics with the Energy Management Cell, conducting energy conservation programmes in schools, the Government HSS functioning on the Medical College Campus in  Kozhikode - boasting 26 smart classrooms - registered an electricity bill of `77,460 this July. Last December, before smart classrooms began functioning fully, the bill stood at `51,797. A similar situation exists at GVHSS for Girls, Nadakkavu, one of the first schools to implement the smart classroom project. The electricity bill received this month stands at `51,000 while it was around `24,000 one-and-a-half-years ago.

V K Satheeshan, PRISM coordinator of Government HSS, Medical College Campus, said the use of laptops, ceiling-mounted multimedia projectors, screens, sound systems and fans in smart classrooms are causing higher levels of electricity consumption. “The school is preparing a plan to implement solar power production to meet the rising electricity demand and decrease the amount spent on paying the electricity bill,” he said.

Anvar Sadath, executive director of the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), the implementation agency for smart schools in the state, said KITE is in the process of drawing up plans to streamline energy consumption.

“Over the next three-four months, KITE will examine the electricity bills in the 125 schools where the pilot project has been implemented,” Sadath said. “We will consider alternative energy sources for schools. Solar power production is one option. If it cannot be a solution in some cases, we will look into other possibilities.” In addition to the alternative power project, schools will follow energy conservation methods too, he said.

Energy Management Cell Kozhikode district coordinator N Cijesh said solar systems incur only the basic instalment cost. If the solar panels are managed well, the system will last for over 15 years. “Setting up a two kilowatt solar power plant will cost `1.65 lakh after all government subsidies. Also, schools can sell the excess electricity produced to KSEB and it will be another source of revenue,” Cijesh said.

Though government schools come under Local Self Government Institutions, to facilitate reimbursement by the institutions, the bills are a burden to LSGIs facing financial crunch. The Kozhikode district panchayat has plans to set up solar plants in schools. Cijesh said a feasibility study is on and the project will be implemented this year.

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