In a bold move, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has announced plans to install solar photovoltaic (SPV) systems in and around the country’s thousands of ancient heritage sites and famous monuments, to light them with clean energy. According to India Today, sources within the Indian Ministry of Culture have confirmed the decision and given the go-ahead for the ambitious project. “All the rooftops of the ASI protected monuments will come under the purview of the initiative. We will cover the rooftops with solar power panels to light up the area at night. It will help save on the electricity bills significantly,” says an unnamed official.
Slated to begin installation in July and August this year, ASI certainly has a big task on its hands as it is engaged in protection and preservation of 3,686 monuments of national importance across the country. It is not clear if all of them are part of the solar plan, though the Ministry of Culture official has confirmed that a budget has already been allocated. “It is an ongoing process and will be executed in phases. The fund has been sanctioned already by the ministry. It will be implemented in all archaeological sites where the rooftop is available for necessary solar installation. The capacity of the solar panels may increase at some sites where the requirement would be higher as per the physical geography of the location,” he adds.
The decision to go solar follows a previous decision by ASI and the Ministry of Culture to light all monuments and important heritage sites, to increase tourist enjoyment and access to the cultural and historical hot spots after sunset. Initially 5MW to 25MW solar power units will be installed at each sites but the capacity of these units may increase depending on the requirement. While traditional electricity costs vary across Indian cities, they average around INR ₹3 per kilowatt hour. However, in January 2016, the cost of solar energy reached an all-time low in India, at just INR ₹4.63/KwH.
This move comes as India continues to make headlines with its solar ambitions – a plan that aims to generate 100 gigawatts by 2022. However, in just 18 months, the country has more than doubled its solar capacity, from 3GW to 7GW, leading the government to ramp up its original 2022 target to also include wind and biomass for a total of 175GW of renewable energy. “Unlike before, there is political support for the renewable energy programme at the highest level, the Prime Minister’s Office is directly supporting it,” says a senior energy sector official to the Indian Times.