Solar Project at Chandpur Village

Chandpur is a small but beautiful village located in the army town of Palampur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The linger leisure (lodge) has opened a facility there. It is situated in a valley about 8 Kms from the Palampur town. Its a beautiful lodge in the foothills of himalayas overlooking a beautiful stream of water.

Because of the terrain and the distance , there is no state power utility grid present there. That is there is no electricity in the area. In this context Linger assigned us the work of designing and installing a solar power system for the facility.

The power requirement there was not much. It was just 6 rooms to be used only in the weekends. All the rooms had LED bulbs of 3 to 5 W. So, essentially we had to design a battery system to be charged from solar radiation to support all the loads in the weekend.

Technically this was not a challenge for us. This was a straightforward standalone system with very small capacity. Considering only weekend crowd and low loads and after discussing with the owners to optimize consumption, we arrived at a design of 500 Wp.  However, we had many other operational challenges like;

  • Distance: We are a Bangalore based company and the site was in Palampur 2800 Kms away in a remote village. 
  • Availability of material: The closest town to our site was Palampur. Though it is a Town/Taluk, we would not get either solar panels or batteries or inverter . We could not even get DC wires there. 
  • Terrain: The Site was 80 feet below and 500 feet away from the nearest road. The site had no access by road . There was no pathway as well. 
  • No Power: Obviously there was no power for the installation. 
  • Mud building: The lodge is built with locally made mud bricks and bamboo and the walls are finished with mud plaster (mixed with little cement and cowdung). Drilling or driving nails into these walls posed a challenge. The roof of the building was made of slate which is a brittle material. Slate roofing along with falling daytime temperature made working on the roof a challenge. 
  • Cost : We had a tight budget for the project. 
Inspite of all the challenges, we decided to go ahead with the project. We very badly wanted to do this project since this was our first project in North India. The non technical challenges added charm to the project. But how did we go about doing the project? 

The greatest challenge was to get the panels to the site. Nowhere in chandigarh and palampur we could find 250Wp panels. We had to transport the panels from Delhi. "Vikram Solar", one of the largest panel manufacturing companies in India had their office in New Delhi. We contacted them through our office in Bangalore and they gave us a good deal. But they would not transport the panels. We tried
through some of our contacts in Delhi to ship it to Palampur but of no avail. We contacted DTDC office in Delhi. They gave a very exorbitant quote. Somehow we agreed. But finally they also pulled out saying that it was a very fragile item to ship.

Kiran rao , our troubleshooter and incharge for this project was in Dharamshala for some work. He made a quick trip to Delhi to see how best he could ship the material. It was trouble throughout for him. He managed to somehow repack the panels. But the Vikram solar office was in South Delhi. He had to get to Kashmiri gate about 25 Kms through the heart of New Delhi and Old delhi to load the panels on the Bus. Each panel was 22 Kgs , 1.2 M in length and 1.0 M in width. The delhi traffic rules says that one cannot transport materials on the highway between 4 and 8 PM. Unaware of this rule, Kiran rao hired a small van to transport the panels. The van guy stopped half away and would not take the material
further. So there was our Kiran in the middle of new Delhi with two heavy panels. No other transporter would oblige. At about 7 PM , kiran rao got a transporter with a special Pass. He finally landed at the bus stop at 8 PM. He left the panels in the bus stop and rushed to the hotel to check out. Thankfully the panels were intact by the time he returned but he missed the bus to Palampur. He had to get a Volvo bus only since the panels could fit only in its trunk. But there was no other Volvo bus.
Kiran made a bold decision to put the panels in a normal bus. He climbed the bus, put the panels and tied it up. Trusting god he set out to Palampur. The bus rolled into Palampur by 9 AM the next day. Kiran himself climbed the bus and unloaded the panels. The first thing he did was to check the panels with a multimeter if the bad roads had damaged the panels. Thankfully ,everything was intact . All the effort was worth it.
The panels then were transported first by a Van and then it was carried by three men down the valley to the site.

The greatest task was achieved after much Drama. However, this was just half the work. We still had to get the tools, the inverter and the batteries. We shipped the battery operated tools from bangalore. We shipped the inverter too from here for a very huge price. The couriers did not reach the destination since it had to cross a military station. So Kiran rao had to pick up the consignments from the courier office in Palampur and take it to chandpur through the military station after giving declaration. The batteries came from Patankot. Udham singh, the local worker carried the 75 kilo batteries down the valley (2 of them).

We got the mounting structure fabricated nearby. But no one would paint it. So kiran himself painted it himself.

Kiran finally integrated all the items. The mud plaster gave a lot of trouble but also made the work aesthetically pleasing (It was very easy to camouflage the conduits).
There were some hiccups. Some tools were missing and some connectors failed. Kiran's colleague Sunil was in Delhi for some personal work. He got in touch with a distributor in Delhi and got the connectors. He made a trip to Palampur to close the project. All the missing links were closed and the beautiful house deep in the hills of Himachal pradesh lit up on a chilling winter night.

It was a very very satisfying project for our team. But for Kiran Rao, we could never have completed this project. Kiran deserves full credit.

Thanks to linger and Kiran, we also got a chance to visit the beautiful towns of Palampur and Dharamshala.


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