A village in India that western environmental groups hoped would provide a model for green energy in the third world is now powered by coal-fired electricity after the total failure of its solar-powered "microgrid," E&E News reports.
Greenpeace set up the stand-alone power grid in the village of Dharnai last summer. It was supposed to demonstrate the viability of solar power for hundreds of millions of rural Indians. Greenpeace wants India to abandon coal power altogether.
Instead, the group’s model village switched to coal power itself.
When the former chief minister of Bihar state visited to inaugurate the grid, villagers lined up to protest, chanting, "We want real electricity, not fake electricity!"
By "real," they meant power from the central grid, generated mostly using coal. By "fake," they meant solar.
Analysts say the story of Dharnai illustrates how difficult it can be to provide reliable, high-quality electricity to the world's poor without using the central grid. […]
At present, solar power in Dharnai costs at least three times as much as grid power. It can support only expensive energy-efficient appliances, such as CFL bulbs. A CFL bulb in India costs 700 rupees ($10), while an incandescent bulb costs 10 rupees (15 cents).