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Powering Rural Banks Through Solar-DC

It is always a challenge to maintain uninterrupted business hours in a bank situated in a far-off rural area, where access to power is uncertain and sporadic. And, in this day and age of automation and cloud computing, manual banking services are almost obsolete.

So, in order to maintain a smooth, uninhibited flow of transaction in banks, it is imperative that we have a power system that is reliable, stable and readily accessible on demand.

This is where the concept of Solar DC comes in.

Solar DC is a technology unique by itself. It can work both as an on-grid as well as an off-grid system, giving the user an added advantage over traditional Solar PV sources.

There are even several options available depending upon the power requirement. Starting from 150 watts, Cygni provides a range catering up to several kilowatt of power.

With this context, Cygni Energy was given the task of installing its system in five branches of State Bank of India, the nation’s biggest lender. The five branches were such chosen that they cater to the rural populace, and the installation actually augments the overall banking experience of the customer.

I was given the responsibility of managing the entire project with added help of one of my colleagues and remote support from the base office at Hyderabad.

To start off, let me give you a basic idea of our system. It primarily consists of –

 

solar panel

  • Solar panel (one or more depending on load)
  • Customized VRLA battery (1 kWh or more)
  • Grid input involving an inbuilt AC-DC converter.
  • Balance-of-system material
  • Load output (LED bulbs , tubelights, BLDC fans, DC-PC)

 

The branches chosen were –

  1. SBI Dasna (Ghaziabad dist. , Uttar Pradesh)
  2. SBI Bhikkanpur (Duhai, Ghaziabad dist. , Uttar Pradesh)
  3. SBI Pawla (Baghpat dist. , Uttar Pradesh)
  4. SBI Muradnagar (Ghaziabad dist. , Uttar Pradesh) – 2 branches
  5. a) SBI ADB Muradnagar
    b) SBI main branch , Muradnagar

 

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With the given task in mind, I set off to work at the designated sites. The first task was to find an electrical contractor adept in the installation of electrical systems. Contrary to the idea that installation of solar PV requires personnel with previous experience of such installation, Cygni’s system is easy to handle and install with very minimum supervision necessary. Any local electrician with know-how of normal household wiring can undertake this installation. That is an advantage in rural areas.

On material receipt at respective sites, we started work one site at a time. Each installation took around 1-2 days for complete installation.

All sites except the one on Pawla involved a 150 W system (1 LED bulb, 1 BLDC fan and 1 HP DC-PC). The Pawla branch had a larger system of 500 W involving 6 LED bulbs, 2 LED Tube lights, 3 BLDC f ans and 2 HP DC-PCs.
There were challenges involved during installation too as work timings were restricted to non-banking hours till the closing of bank. Also, the installation was such planned so as not to disturb any existing system. So, we had to work around with utmost caution. In the end, everything turned out as desired, to the full satisfaction of the branch managers of each of them.

A larger capacity system was deliberately chosen for the Pawla branch , keeping in mind the fact the branch is off-grid and ran on DG set entirely (till now). Cygni’s system has helped offset its total dependence on diesel, and in the process reduce its daily spend on fuel considerably.

As per the RBI data on scheduled commercial banks, there are over 45,000 “rural” banks in India. The term “rural” being defined as all centres with population under 10,000. Most of these banks have a DG set, either due to complete power non-availability or intermittent availability. These banks rely on Diesel for power with the DG capacity ranging between 10-25kVA for each branch. With a regular 8-hour operation of these branches, each branch spends about Rs35, 000 for the cost of diesel alone.

Considering the transportation cost, cost of operations & maintenance of DG set and other overheads, the cost of providing power easily exceeds Rs 50,000 per branch per month. The cost of powering these rural branches exceed Rs1200 crores just for diesel alone. This is a huge cost which also results in CO2 emission and poses health issues on account of pollution.

In all, I believe that this system could be a game changer in providing energy security to banking institutions in rural areas be it nationalised banks like SBI, UBI, etc. or Regional Rural Banks run by the states and even the Agricultural Development banks. It is safe, reliable, compact, and can be scaled up as desired.

Written by: Pradipta Sekhar Paul
The author may be reached at info@cygni.com

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