Researchers and ECC Engineers from Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) attended a three-day training programme at Auroville Consulting (AVC) from 16 December 2019 to 18 December 2019. The programme focused on several topics ranging from TN Solar Policy 2019 and rooftop solar installation to e-mobility and smart grid systems. The sessions of the programme were designed and structured in such a way that each of them were supplemented with site visits and expert interactions.

Highlights of the training programme: 
  1. The sessions enabled a hands-on learning experience with site visits to Auroville’s rooftop solar installation, wastewater treatment plant and e-cycles initiative.
  2. The programme provided ample scope to explore the various energy efficient and sustainable practices followed at Auroville.
  3. The sessions were complimented with interactions, discussions and board games that enhanced the learning experience.
  4. The sessions were delivered by experts who presented the topics based on their respective  experience and aurovillian experiments.

Mr.  Toine van Megen delivered the first session of the programme. He presented a detailed analysis of the Tamil Nadu Solar Policy 2019. Following which Mr. Shiv Vembadi presented on the implementation of KUSUM in Tamil Nadu. He explained that an integrated approach ie., combing energy-efficient pumps and advanced irrigation methods will conserve energy as well as water.  

The afternoon session on rooftop solar installation was conducted by Mr. Debabrata Sahoo. He emphasised on the need for solar energy and shared Auroville experiences on stand-alone and grid-connected rooftop solar. He concluded the session with a site visit to the foundation office at Auroville, where 15 kW of rooftop panels have been installed. At the foundation office, he explained each system component of the rooftop solar and emphasised on the importance of site survey.

  

 

Image 1: Solar panels installed on the foundation office rooftop

 

Image 2: Battery store at foundation office

 

On Day 2 of the training programme, the first session on decentralised wastewater treatment was delivered by Mr. Tency Beatens. He shared his experiences in building wastewater treatment systems and explained the working of the Vortex system at Auroville Centre for Scientific Research (CSR).  These systems are built below the ground level and treat wastewater in a closed environment. Further to eliminate the odour from the wastewater, the vortex system uses a swirling motion and continuous supply of oxygen.

 

 

Image 3: Vortex system at the Centre for Scientific Research

The day ended with a visit to Kinisi, Auroville. Kinisi is a unit of Auroville under the Center for Scientific Research Trust which brings electric mobility to all Auroville residents, volunteers and guests. Mr. Debabrata drew attention to the energy wastage resulting from use of different kinds of vehicles and highlighted that Kinisi was started to provide efficient solutions to reduce such energy wastage. Reflecting on the work and journey of Kinisi, the need to switch to electric mobility and its relevance in metro cities were discussed at length.

 

Image 4: E-cycles at Kinisi

 

Image 5: Photos displayed at Kinisi

 

On Day 3 of the training programme began with a visit to the Power Grid Corporation, Pondicherry. Mr. Raghunath, Control Centre Engineer presented a brief on the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which facilitates monitoring and measurement of consumer information through Smart Meters installed at customer premises. He highlighted that a pilot project was implemented in 2016 where smart meters were installed for 34,000 consumers which include single-phase, three-phase and HT meters. He demonstrated the working of smart meters, manufactured by Dongfang Electronics Co., Ltd, China and explained about the data acquisition and management systems in place. He concluded the session with the challenges faced by them while implementing the project.

 

 

Image 6: Discussion with Control Centre Engineer, Raghunath

 

The subsequent session was focused on the smart street lights installed at Auroville. Mr. Jaswanth, AVC explained about the working of the Smart Street Lights which have been designed to create an overarching digital control system that is based on the concept of Internet of Things, and cloud computing to deliver efficiency to existing street light grids. He highlighted that the street lights have been installed with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and dimmers. He added that after 11 PM, the lights automatically function at 40% of its brightness. He concluded with a demonstration of how the lights can be controlled and monitored on the web.

 

 

 

Image 7: Mr. Jaswanth explaining the working of smart street lights

 

The final session of the programme was on Green buildings. Mr. Victor Catrib introduced the green building concept and shared information around the steps to be followed while planning to construct a passive or green building. He explained the concept of the urban heat island effect and elaborated on various Heating Ventilation and Air cooling (HVAC) systems. He further threw light on energy efficient measures that can make a net-zero energy building. He concluded the session with a deep dive into several case studies on green buildings, from around the world. 

 

 

 

Image 8: Mr. Victor Catrib presenting on Green Buildings

 

The three-day training programme came to a close with a board game designed and developed by AVC. The multi-stakeholder board game enabled the players to approach electricity consumption with long-term strategies to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Overall, the three-day training programme was an interesting learning experience. The sessions were focused on the theoretical, technical, practical and policy aspects of solar energy, passive buildings, electric mobility, and smart grid systems. Each of these sessions were further supplemented with site visits and interactions with proficient personnel working in the respective space. The most interesting aspect of the sessions was that they were based on Aurovillian experiments and experience around the highlighted themes. To have instructors who have walked the talk and speak out of experience was both insightful and inspiring. Above all, it was most beneficial since the environment promoted hands-on learning and encouraged inquisitiveness.

 

Footnotes:

1. Tamil Nadu announced its new Solar Policy in February 2019 which sets an ambitious target of achieving an installed solar generation capacity of 9,000 MW by 2023.
2.  Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan (KUSUM scheme): Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) Scheme for farmers for installation of solar pumps and grid connected solar and other renewable power plants in the country.
3.  A net-zero energy building is a building with zero net energy consumption, i.e. total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site