First Solar-Powered Housing Project in India Complete, Sold Out

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorNew Town Kolkata (Calcutta), India–India’s first solar-powered housing project, Rabi Rashmi Abasan, has been completed and sold out.“In India, the climate is well-adapted to solar architecture and PVs (photovoltaic cells), because there is so much sunlight, so it’s conducive to the effective production of solar energy,” notes Manager of Sustainability Ilana Judah, international associate AIA, LEED AP at New York-based FXFOWLE.Conceived, designed and built by West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) and Bengal DCL Housing Development Co. Ltd., a joint enterprise of West Bengal Housing Board and DC Properties Ltd., the 600,000-Euro housing community is comprised of 25 residential bungalows and a community center on 1.76 acres. Each bungalow is priced at 4.5 million rupees (approximately $105,000, which is comparatively expensive for the area) and offers two or three bedrooms, as well as a garage.The development is composed of 464 units of solar modules, customized to fit the roofs of each building. By utilizing solar power, the houses can reportedly save up to 100 kilowatts of energy each day.Each house includes a rooftop solar water heater, and the community pool is heated with solar energy. All of the development’s streetlights utilize solar photovoltaic panels and two battery-operated pick-up vans are available to residents. Additionally, residents can feed unused energy into the power grid, potentially providing energy to state power utilities. When necessary, the homeowner may receive power from the grid.“In some areas, they don’t have a reliable electrical grid or other dependable energy sources,” says Judah. “The idea of trying to integrate PVs into a development to decentralize power sources is great.”As a trend, solar power is starting to become more popular in the U.S., Judah notes, as is the notion of feeding unused power into the utility grid. “It’s a trend that is gradually increasing in certain parts of the U.S., where the sun is much more predominant.” Additionally, she says that some companies provide solar panels to residential buildings, free of charge, as an incentive to utilize solar power. The residents then pay a monthly bill comparable to an electricity bill, avoiding a high up-front installation cost.Elsewhere, solar-powered housing has seen some key turning points in Europe. Judah points to BedZED, a carbon-neutral mixed-use eco-community in London, as an example of what can be done with solar power.