Cricket stadiums bat for solar energy

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Make power while the sun shines seems to be the new adage in some cricketing circles these days. Some cash-rich state cricket associations have taken on a new task—to generate power of the solar kind.

The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) in Bengaluru set the trend, having been shown the way by a bureaucrat in the state administration.

In January 2013, Anil Kumble, the current Indian team coach who was then KSCA president, got a call from Kaushik Mukherjee, then state additional chief secretary.

“He called me from Freiburg (a town in Germany) and said he was in a football stadium that was completely powered by solar energy,” says Kumble. “He told me that the same could be done at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, making us the first sports stadium in the country to do something like that.”

“Going green was a major factor and we had a roof exposed to sunlight. It was strange we hadn’t thought about it before,” he adds. “The best part was that when the German firm GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) did a feasibility study of our roof, they told us the existing trusses would take the load of the panels to be installed. It thus became an easy decision.” GIZ did the study as part of the Indo-German Environment Partnership Programme that works on sustainable solutions.

Before Kumble and his committee could initiate the project, a new committee took charge. But the project went ahead in 2015.

“Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the country and we have a social obligation to do good where we can,” says Brijesh Patel, a former cricketer and administrator. “With solar energy, carbon emissions are also reduced. Also, for a one-time investment (Rs3.68 crore, according to the KSCA’s annual report), the returns are great. We have already saved around Rs1 crore (over the last two years) and with the way the power rates keep going up, we will recover our costs soon. We can actually sit back for the next 20 years and enjoy the fruits of this labour,” adds Patel, who recently stepped down as KSCA secretary, a move forced by the reforms ordered by the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee that looked at the functioning of Board of Control for Cricket in India and its affiliates.

Both Kumble and Patel are thrilled that their work is now likely to be emulated by the likes of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) and Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA). According to GIZ, all these associations have shown an interest.

“We are glad to contribute to society. The roof is there, so is the sun, so if other associations are planning to make use of the same, it makes us happy,” says Patel.

“We have massive electricity bills in a stadium like ours,” says CAB president Sourav Ganguly, talking about the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. “We have not finalized the matter but yes, we are thinking about it. We use a lot of power, so the idea is to reduce costs and, in the process, contribute to a cleaner environment too.”

The KSCA, which used to get a monthly electricity bill of around Rs10-11 lakh, now pays around Rs6 lakh. The association spends approximately Rs50 crore a year on cricketing matters, which includes infrastructure expenses. So every rupee saved is a rupee earned.

Intersolar, an exhibition-cum-conference starting 28 May in the German city of Munich, will discuss the possibilities of solar installation. Officials from Indian cricket associations are expected to attend. Visits to football stadiums around Germany that have installed solar panels will form part of the tour, organized by GIZ and the German government.

In June 2014, a seminar at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, also conducted by GIZ, made the point that solar panels need not always be mounted on the roof, as is the case with Chinnaswamy Stadium—they can, in fact, become the roof itself. Associations such as the Maharashtra Cricket Association and Hyderabad Cricket Association may be interested in such technology—most parts of their stadiums don’t have roofs.

“Every stadium has to become self-sufficient. If cricket can show the way, more public places could well follow,” concludes Kumble.

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