Three mechanical engineering students from IIT Kharagpur while working as interns on energy efficiency solutions invented their startup company’s main product. In fact their experiments to discover more ways to harness solar solutions resulted in developing their company ECOZEN’s main product. Devendra Gupta, Prateek Singhal and Vivek Pandey set up Ecozen Solutions in 2010 and conducting an energy audit of their alma mater’s campus became their first project. Encouragement from Director and Rs 1.2 lakh investment they started Enthused by the response of the director and a Rs.1.2 lakh investment they started giving shape to their vision.
They have developed a portable cold chain room for farmer that can store 5-6 metric tonne of produce. It can be monitored remotely by the team and can be operated using an Android app by the farmer. The unit relies on solar panels of 2.5-3.5KW and stores power using thermal energy rather than conventional batteries and can last for 36 hours in case of cloudy weather. One unit costs Rs.12.1 lakh and installation and other costs can take the final unit cost to Rs.15 lakh-16 lakh. Ecozen has so far deployed around 45 such cold chain rooms so far and is looking at other developing markets with four units already dispatched to Vietnam and Indonesia for a pilot project.
The second product launched two years ago, is a solar-powered water pump called Ecotron that can be used on existing diesel pumps as well. Priced at Rs.1.1 lakh-1.2 lakh per HP, the solar pumping system can store energy which can be used to power other appliances such as lights and fans when pump is not in use. Farmers typically use agricultural pumps that either run on electricity or consume diesel. Long power cuts in rural areas and high fuel prices make it unviable for farmers to use them. Ecozen has sold 400 such pumps so far and currently provides maintenance services in Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It has also filed for eight patents related to both its products that are currently pending approval.
Farmers across the country are currently availing these technologies through NABARD and some state government schemes. “The market potential for solar pumps in India is 10 -12 million and we have about 100,000 on the ground now. A reduction in the unit cost would certainly help and so would financing options. Schemes announced by state governments are very ad-hoc and amount to only a drop in the ocean. A reduction in solar panel costs may significantly help the manufacturers in reducing the unit cost,” explains Vinay Rustagi, MD, Bridge to India, a solar power consultancy firm.
MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) set up a credit-linked capital subsidy programme in 2011 under which the farmer is required to pay 20% of the cost of pump and can borrow the rest of the amount. Once half the loan amount is paid, the rest is accounted for by the subsidy paid by the ministry via NABARD. However, requirement of collateral has deterred farmers from availing this central government scheme.