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One cannot envisage life in the city without ringing mobiles, air conditioners, blenders, fans, blazing lights, refrigerators, whirring vacuum cleaners, fuel guzzling cars. But when we thought about how many of these are essential and took a step back in time it was revelation of sorts. Yes, we found that our dependence on these gadgets have increased, yet we cannot consider them as essentials! One can mistakenly consider them essential because the alternatives are either not acceptable or not available in the city to use them!

When we planned to build the cottages in Vanashree we had very little clue about alternate energy sources. But,  the idea of alternate energy sources was a very appealing one.

One of the first things we thought of while designing the house was that just proper cross ventilation can keep the house unbelievably cool (from our experience at Anjanappa's house). This was further reiterated when we met Dr. Ravikumar (CART). He initiated us into the world of alternate energy sources... solar, wind, gobar gas, bio-diesel.  We got to see first hand these alternate energy sources at work in Navadarshanam, where they are completely self sufficient with energy they are producing and completely off grid.

We first came across solar powered lighting in a remote village in Shimoga, where we least expected it! Our host convinced us that it works very well and it was then that we explored about it in Bangalore.   It was during our search for  solar vendors that we came across Deepa Solar Lighting Systems.  This company took the trouble of understanding our requirements and implementing the solution in a short time. The customer service has been excellent.  Our complete home lighting at Vanashree is on solar. We have deployed 74w panel with two 40 AH batteries. It's been working very well over last 1 year and we can have up to 4 lights ON for more than 10 hrs.

Our borewell being 375 ft deep, we are still dependent on the grid to run our water pump. The alternative models we explored including wind and solar was prohibitively expensive (in excess of Rs.3.0 lacs)

 

With 10 cows in the farm, gobar gas plant which was on the agenda at the beginning of the 2006 was  realized in mid 2007. This plant measuring 3 Cu mts caters to both houses for all our cooking needs  and also provides enough compost for the farm. Kiran from SKG Sangha was helpful in getting this plant constructed through his expert Venkateshwar Rao. Now all our cooking is based on fuel from gobar gas plant.

The other source of energy that we are yet to harness is bio-diesel. Navadarshanam runs a modified 6.5hp kirloskar motor on bio-diesel made from the seeds of the Honge (Pongamia glabra) tree. We have planted over 100 Honge saplings with a plan that we will have enough seeds in the years to come by to have our own bio-diesel based generator.

Living in the farm also provides us enough dry coconut leaves and dead Tur plants  which we use for heating water. A good way to avoid the smoke and the dust associated with it is to have the fire on the outside with the container for heating inside the house. This is something that we came across in a coffee estate in Coorg.

We also have a highly efficient firewood stove from CART which works very well especially for bulk cooking. It works with many kinds of raw material in addition to wood such as coir, wood shaving etc. A disadvantage for small time home cooking with this stove is that neither the flame can be regulated nor can the stove be recharged in the middle of cooking.

Priti uses stone grinders and she has not seen a need for any electrical blenders or mixers at Vanashree.