India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has proposed plans to turn 60 Indian cities into so-called “solar cities”. The region of Tripura, in north east India, located next door to Bangladesh, has been selected as a pilot to this scheme with an investment of Rs.452.32 crore, according to a ministry official. The MNRE is expected to bear 90% of the cost and the remaining would be shouldered by the Tripura government.
Solar hot water systems would be installed in all hotels, nursing homes, school hostels, government circuit houses and bungalows, hospitals and health centres, tourist lodges, temples and the governor's residence. The city's street lights and other lights in public places would also be operated on solar energy.
“Agartala city would be the first 'solar city' in northeast India within the next few years,” Tripura's urban development minister Manik Dey said after inaugurating a 50kW solar power plant at the Agartala Municipal Council head office.
He continued, “Solar power is the sustainable and viable energy for both cities and remote areas. Electricity crisis would not be solved in the country unless we use non-conventional energy like solar power in a big way.”
“The Tripura Renewable Energy Development Authority (TREDA) and urban development department, in association with MNRE, would implement the ambitious scheme,” an MNRE official added.
“Theft of battery and solar panel is a major problem facing the authorities in implementing the solar electrification programme,” Tripura's science, technology and environment minister Joy Gobinda Debroy said.
According to Debroy, through the TREDA, 80,000 solar lanterns have been distributed among poor people residing in urban as well as rural areas in Tripura. Over 66,000 small and medium hot water plants have been installed across Tripura.
The minister said 700 hamlets and 50 villages in remote areas have already been provided solar energy, benefiting more than 35,000 families.
Of India's 60 proposed solar cities, eight cities have been identified in the north eastern region by MNRE. The cities include Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, Agartala in Tripura, Guwahati and Jorhat in Assam, Aizawl in Mizoram, Imphal in Manipur and Kohima and Dimapur in Nagaland.