The solar energy system powers the whole school for 1,600 students in the remote town of Kakdwip in West Bengal state, including its computers, kitchens, science labs and even energy-hungry welding machines in vocational classes.
Before the school was equipped with solar through a government project in 2018, Majhi said it struggled with low and fluctuating power voltage, particularly in the summers when the main grid got overburdened.
“But today the quality of power has much improved,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Solar energy can be so powerful, it runs my whole school.”
West Bengal’s Sunshine Schools project aims to lower carbon emissions and bring cheap, reliable energy to the state’s classrooms by swapping traditional grid electricity supplies for solar power produced onsite by grid-connected systems.
Saktiram Das, the teacher in charge of monitoring the solar system at Akshaynagar Jnanadamoyee Vidyaniketan High School, said its pupils had gained a new appreciation of green energy.
“Our students now get to see and understand the real-time efficacy of solar power,” he said.
“They learn from a young age the importance of clean energy and how it keeps our environment clean.”
The project run by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) aims to add at least 250 megawatts of solar power to the grid by 2030, said governing board member Ratan Mondal.
“One of our basic aims is to connect remote schools with robust and easily available power, so that even rural children can benefit from the latest educational facilities,” Mondal told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The project has so far covered 1,800 schools across the state, and plans to install mini solar energy plants – each costing 450,000 Indian rupees ($6,210) – in 1,000 schools every year, eventually reaching a total of 25,000, he added.
Besides cutting planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions and providing a steady power supply, the switch to solar from the conventional electricity supply has also substantially reduced the schools’ energy bills.