India is a highly developed and educated country of 1.3 billion people, but with extremes of wealth such that 300 million live in poverty with no electricity. IEEE Smart Village has begun a sustained effort to help change that statistic by planting new community scale electricity businesses and new models of community-based education that bring opportunities to the communities normally found only in the highly developed countries of the world. Empowering villages is seen as a solution to stemming the endemic poverty of the many rural areas and the related growth of big city slums by migration of the poor seeking to make a living wage and get a decent education.  India has the largest number of IEEE members outside of North America and ISV is working to capture much of that talent to plant and rapidly grow Smart Village community scale solutions. A village in India is typically 10,000 people and villages may have some grid power but it may serve only 10% of the people, very unreliably as the limited grid power is switched off after a few hours, on a random schedule, to reach other villages for a few hours per day.

Not all villages are large; there are many small hamlets in mountainous areas including preserves and trekking trails of the Himalayas; Here needs call for  a variety of smaller scale solutions such as 24V DC microgrids serving large buildings with many rooms, or many smaller more remote homes by portable battery power. Nonetheless the same basic Smart Village standard products can be adapted throughout.

IEEE Smart Village partner, Global Humanitarian Expedition, solar panels installed for a community school in the Himalayan mountains. Date: 2015. Location: Ladakh, India. Photo: Paras Loomba.

The participation of IEEE Smart Village in the 2015 IEEE-IEEMA INTELECT Conference & Exposition in Mumbai was an important first step. An IEEE Smart Village Plan for India has to evolve through the phases or Observe, Orient, Decide and Act in an iterative manner with the scope of the projects and their impact growing over time. IEEE Smart Village co-founder Robin Podmore took the first step in meeting with potential partners, such as the Electrical Research and Development Association (ERDA), a cooperative research institution created by the Indian Electrical Industry and Utilities with the support of Governments of India and Gujarat.

In 2016, IEEE Smart Village expanded its partnership with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE). With this expansion, IEEE Smart Village is supporting GHE in providing clean energy access through solar power to improve the living standards of rural villages in the remote Himalayan frontiers of India.

IEEE Smart Village’s investment in GHE will specifically go toward funding access to basic electricity, through installation of energy efficient high lumen LED lights for residential lighting, solar LED street lighting for the outdoor community space, mobile charging points and customized DC HD LED TV for these villages which are typically located above 13000 ft. in the Indian Himalayas bordering countries such as Pakistan and China.

In partnership with IEEE Smart Village, GHE’s objective is to implement the renewable energy and technology solutions in a sustainable, scalable and environmentally beneficial way—leading to an overall development of the remote villages in the Ladakh and Zanskar regions of India. In August 2015, an international cast of volunteers, including IEEE members, helped set-up DC Solar microgrids, ranging in capacity from 100 watts (W) to 300 watts (W), to the remote ancient village of Shingo, nestled in Hemis National Park, in the Rumbak Valley of Ladakh, under the banner of GHE.