On Sunday, the eldest resident of Dharnai, India, flipped a switch and the village officially joined the age of electricity. But Dharnai, in India's northeastern Bihar state, did more than join a reliable energy grid — it became India's first village powered entirely by solar electricity. A few months ago, Greenpeace and two other NGOs that work in the area (BASIX and CEED) started building a solar power micro-grid to serve the village, and after a few months of testing, the autonomous 100 kilowatt system officially went online this past weekend.
The Dharnai grid serves about 450 homes, housing 2,400 residents, Greenpeace says, as well as roughly 50 businesses, streetlights, water pumps, two schools, health care center, and other public and private ventures. It has a battery to store excess electricity, for use during the sunless hours.
Germany reaching the milestone of (at least briefly) meeting more than half its electricity needs through solar is probably a bigger feat, but The Week's Ryan Cooper argues that projects like this in India and China will do more over the long term to counter the harmful climate effects of fossil fuel consumption.
And bringing reliable electricity to a town or village for the first time feels like a much bigger deal than switching from nuclear to solar power. It changes every aspect of life, from safety and health to entertainment and economic progress. Earlier this month, Andrew Satter at the Center for American Progress detailed what getting power for the first time does to villages in India, and Greenpeace does something similar in this video from newly solar-powered Dharnai. --Peter Weber