Solar power for schools is much more than energy savings!

The Solar PV system at The Fabindia School, Rajasthan
Rooftop solar PV systems is an effective solution for addressing the increasing retail electricity tariffs and power outages across the country. India, over the past seven years, has witnessed an annual increase of 5 – 10% in retail electricity tariffs which is also the primary driver for rooftop solar PV projects. While industrial and commercial consumers in over a dozen states are victims of very high tariffs (over INR 8.5/units), institutional consumers (including schools, colleges and hospitals), though beneficiaries of partial cross – subsidised electricity, are currently paying tariffs of up to and above INR 7.5/unit across multiple states in India. Investments in solar energy provide schools with some benefits that appeal to a broad set of stakeholders. The administration and management of educational institutions have started to recognise the value of solar energy in providing a long-term hedge against increases in electricity tariffs and have been gaining affinity towards the technology’s ability to deliver cost savings. Solar also presents teachers with a great educational opportunity. Finally, the increased use of clean energy technologies like solar can help significantly reduce emissions of pollutants that can harm human health and the environment.
Most schools have access to relatively large flat roof areas which are left vacant and therefore, is ideal to install a rooftop solar PV system. Additionally, the peak operational hours of a school is simultaneous to that of a solar PV system, i.e. between 0800 hrs to 1700 hrs. This essentially means that a rooftop solar system can cater to most of the school’s energy requirement at a lower electricity cost than the prevailing grid tariffs.
Landscape view of the rooftop solar PV system
Regarding educational opportunities, schools have enormous incentive to go solar – not only to save money but also create energy and sustainability conscious student body. Since it is important that students be aware of the huge environmental challenges we face this century, schools serve as stewards of sustainability and cornerstones of green initiatives that benefit our community. With solar PV systems, students can see first – hand how sunlight is converted to electricity and can be integrated into a school’s math, science, and technologies programs to improve exposure and test scores in those fields. Also, the surging demand for solar systems will add hundreds of thousands of green-collar jobs to the economy, including those in research, development, manufacturing, construction, sales, and marketing. Exposure to such projects will engage students at a young age and may prepare them for these types of jobs.
Finally, solar energy is an apt substitute for fossil fuel burning power plants, which emit greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. Additionally, unlike diesel generators, solar energy is free and does not require any fuel costs. Switching to solar energy is one of the biggest changes we can make in our communities to curb global warming. With rising concerns about our carbon footprint and the mounting cost of energy, solar is a wise investment for the health of the environment and generations to come.

The Fabindia School Rooftop Solar PV Project

Commencement of the construction at Fabindia School
SM Renergy (P) Ltd is a well-established solar energy company with a focus on rooftop solar projects and distributors of various solar products including – solar lanterns, solar street lights, solar water purification system, solar water pumping system and solar fencing. SM Renergy has executed various projects across India and primarily has experience in installing rooftop solutions catered to educational institutions.
Early this year, the management of Fabindia Schools selected SM Renergy to set up a rooftop solar PV system at their premises in the village of Bali, Rajasthan. After conducting the site visit and technical due diligence, SMR proposed the following specifications were readily accepted by the school management –
10kW Hybrid (both off grid – grid tie)
10 Nos (12V, 150Ah)
Solar Panel
11 kWp (44*250Wp)
Galvanized MS
Safety Equipment
Lightning Arrestor, Earthing

This system was connected to the local grid under the net – metering mechanism. The net – metering mechanism enables the solar system to generate electricity and directly export the energy to the grid. The consumer, at the end of the billing cycle, will only the charged for the net electricity consumed (i.e., – total electricity consumed from the grid – the electricity exported from the rooftop solar PV system). This mechanism helps consumers offset their grid consumption through the solar system and start saving from the day of commissioning the plant.
Storage room for the inverter and battery backup
This solar system will generate approximately 19,200 units a year over the life of the plant which is 25 years. If we assume a current tariff of INR 7.50/unit from the grid, the school will save up to INR 1,50,000 per year – assuming the tariff remains the same which is highly unlikely. In continuation, if we assume an annual escalation of 5% in electricity tariffs, the overall savings over the life of the plant would be a little over INR 2,00,000 per annum. Not to forget that this sum of money can be diverted towards introducing new facilities and upgrading the existing ones in the school. Due to economies of scale, rooftop solar PV systems of larger sizes will even lower the cost of electricity from solar PV which will have a direct positive impact on the savings. The Fabindia School staff and students were very enthusiastic on adopting solar PV at their premise and assisted SM Renergy in every way possible.
Samay Mangalagiri – Director, SM Renergy, Email