Chennai tea seller finds solace in solar


Express News Service

CHENNAI: Even as the country battles a huge power crisis and people find it difficult to cope with inflated electricity bills, 61-year-old S Dhamodharan is untethered. Reason: He has been making full use of the scorching sun into generating enough electricity to run his tea stall.

“I haven’t spent a single rupee on electricity bill in the last six months after I set up these solar panels,” he says, pointing to the two panels in front of his stall inside the Mahindra Tech Park in Chengalpattu.
The panels together power six mini tubelights, a fan and a radio inside his tea stall.

Dhamodharan’s eyes glitter when he talks about the panels’ eco-friendliness and cost-effectiveness.
“I was randomly scrolling through YouTube videos one day and I stumbled upon a few explainer videos on solar panels. That is when I decided to give it a shot, and purchased two of them from Amazon,” he says, whilst making a piping hot cup of ginger tea.

All that he had to spend to set up the panels was only Rs 20,000, including labour cost. “The panels take about six to eight hours to get fully charged. Once ready for use, the battery runs up to two days without having to recharge,” he says, adding that sunlight is not required at all times. “Even during rains, the batteries get charged if there’s a nominal light,” he says. A tiny digital meter connected to the batteries shows how much charge is left in them.

Evenings and nights are the best business hours for Dhamodharan. Top IT parks and corporate companies are located in Mahindra Tech City, and it is usually during these hours the employees there want to catch a break. “Most of them find it comfortable here as there are bright lights,” says Dhamodharan, pointing to a few new benches that he had recently put up.

The pandemic did not spare his business as well.

Dhamodharan used to make Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 a day before the onset of Covid-19, which saw a sharp slump to a meagre Rs 500 a day. His small family of three found it difficult to meet their ends. However, with the reopening of IT parks and most employees returning to office, Dhamodharan has managed to put a smile back on his face.

“This is a valuable investment. Firstly, for platform tea stalls like mine, there are no electric lines. If we put more panels and bigger batteries, even fans may work. For small shops, this is a good investment,” he signs off.

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