While holidaying in Switzerland, Fawaz Hussain stumbled upon a chalet that would change his life forever. The house, powered entirely by solar energy, offered a business model that he could take back home. “I knew that if a chalet in the Alps could be powered completely by solar energy, then practically every house back home in India could be too, considering the amount of sunshine we receive,” he says.
Inspired, he founded Daystar Solars in 2012, one of several burgeoning enterprises cropping up all over the country. With solar energy gathering steam, those involved in the business are hoping to prove that it isn’t just limited to transportation or powering turbines, but as a growing lifestyle.
Businessmen like Hussain believe that the rhetoric surrounding solar energy’s potential and benefits has been focused only on energy conservation, failing to bring light to several other areas. Solar energy has also come to serve as a gateway to a more holistic way of living. Not only does living in a home lit by natural light have psychological benefits, but it also helps you save money and adds to the aesthetic of your home.
Creating a better environment
With more than 500 solar energy companies in Tamil Nadu, Satheesh Alagraha, founder of the Chennai-based Vega Engineering and Constructions credits the industry’s growth to the rise of customers turning to more niche, alternative lifestyles. “People are starting to realise that the benefits are not limited to one aspect,” he says, “Take the cost, for example. Fuel rates are climbing every day,” he says adding that this way a customer gets their premium source of energy free. And since this energy can power virtually anything, including homes and cars, “we see bills as low as ₹ 25 for a month,” he says. Hussain adds that the cost effectiveness of solar energy makes for a more comfortable lifestyle, one that is, “lighter on your wallet, and better for the environment. You can now afford to do unusual things like running ACs all day during summer, for example,” he says.
Growing in popularity
Solar panelling’s growing popularity in homes across the city is also witnessing more designers getting involved in its implementation, revamping homes with skylights and glass panelling.
Take Malini Iyer, a client of company Studio Context Architects in Chennai, who designed her home around her solar panels; her living room features an open roof and another enclosed with glass, both of which she associates with the better mood and look of her home. “As architects, we’re taught to design around the light,” affirms Sharanya Srinivasan of Studio Context, whose home also uses solar energy. The natural lighting that accompanies solar installations brings a fresh aesthetic. “The shading you get, the kind of contouring and the shaping provided by natural light is something you can never get with artificial.”
Utilising solar energy is just one part of a fuller, more holistic picture, adds Alagraha. “Conservation isn’t just limited to one thing; you have to look at the bigger picture. That’s when it becomes a lifestyle,” he says.