Smart Solar Spares and Repairs

An Environment project Odisha, India

Using smart technology to support local solar energy enterprises to serve the energy needs of the rural poor.

About this crowd-funding effort

We are looking to raise £10,000 to allow us to trial our solar energy repair system Urjaa Samadhan, in Odisha (India) with 20 ‘solar entrepreneurs’.  A 'super service centre' will be set up to support the 20 entrepreneurs with experienced repair technicians who will enact tougher repair jobs and act as a local parts distributor.

Every penny will be spent in Odisha, through our small team based in the capital, Bhubaneshwar. The operation runs as a social enterprise and aims to make impact on, rather that derive profit from, the solar energy market.

Ultimately by working with local entrepreneurs we aim to allow rural users of solar energy equipment to access the repair services that they require in order to remain electrified. Electrity access provides a multitude of benefits to rural users; including the ability for children to study after dark, adults to  increase their working time, safety in villages, and increased social activities.

We have made a film about the major issues that the people of Odisha face regarding access to electricity. This can be viewed here:

About the project

In 2015, 77 milion households lacked access to the grid in India (~360m people), with another 20 million with less than 4 hours grid electricity per day. A popular solution to this huge issue is to provide people with access to energy is through use of solar energy. In the Indian state of Odisha alone, hundreds of thousands of free & subsidised off-grid solar installations have been deployed at community or household level, though the private sales are increasing common.

Despite rapid uptake of solar, users are frequenty finding themselves plunged back into darkness, when inevitably after 1 or 2 years, their solar technology fails and they have no back up option apart from dangerous fuels such as kerosene. Though not a widely studies subect, one study in Kenya showed that only 22% of solar users are able to get their equipment repaired, due to lack of repair services, spare parts availability and technical knowledge. The other 78% lay unused – ‘stranded’

Often the faults with equipment are very minor, but due to lack of a functional solar energy market, the technology is left to decay, rather than being fixed by a trained technician for a resonable price. This is explained in our short film which can be viewed here:

This project is about working with solar energy enterprises to ensure that they have the training, resources and communications methods required to supply solar energy repair services to needy customers. We aim to ensure that poor users of solar energy equipment are able to remain electrified and do not face the cruel fate of living in darkness, just because they couldn’t procure a new battery for their solar lamp, or were not informed how to maintain their solar battery. 

How Does it Work?

The ICT system "Urjaa Samadhan" (meaning Power Solution), has been developed as a prototype and piloted with 6 enterprises in Odisha. The system uses a communications gateway to allow users to make service requests by placing missed calls/SMS to a dedicated number. The request is then routed to the nearest registered technician’s Urjaa Samadhan mobile app, at the local enterprise, who can aggregate demand in a particular area before making a visit in person. The technician is then be able to place orders and pay for the parts and systems that they need through the mobile application, rather than scouring their local market in vain, for parts that are inevitably hard or impossible to find.

We also aim to pack the application full of system repair guides and schematics, so that technicians are equipt to tackle a wide variety of issues that arise.

The pilot showed that users and enterprises value the ICT system highly, but require further support in terms of training, infrastructure and access to equipment in order to create a thriving solar pv repair ecosystem. A need for regional ‘super service centres’ with experienced staff was also highlighted.

About Urjaa Samadhan

 Urjaa Samadhan is a new Indian organisation born out of a project undertaken by University of Edinburgh and Scene called ‘Towards Resilience’. This project looked to see how Informational and communications technologies (ICTs) could be used to bridge communications gaps in the off-grid energy sector.

Urjaa Samadhan aims to foster an effective repair ecosystem within the small-scale solar pv sector that allows the market to function much more effectively that at present, using a backbone of cutting edge ICT. Our target segment is rural BoP populations, firstly in India, who are currently let down by a lack of integration within the solar market. Our impact will be to support businesses to offer excellent services to their local populace, thereby growing the solar sector.