A man full of energy

Poorna Kulkarni
Monday, 15 July 2019

Dwarkadas Suresh from Chennai lives in a house that runs on solar power and all other needs of the family are met by other natural resources

Till a few days ago, we were dealing with scorching heat and now some parts of the country are faced with waterlogging and flooding caused by incessant rains. 

What do these geographical changes teach you? That we have to channelise the natural resources to fulfill some of our existing needs but also make arrangements for the future. Countries like Germany, United States of America and Japan have moved majorly towards using solar power, a similar shift can be seen in India as well. At individual level too, people are adopting sustainable lifestyle consciously. Among them is Dwarkadas Suresh, popularly known as Solar Suresh.

This Chennai-based eco warrior is an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad graduate. He has worked extensively in textile marketing industry in various capacities like chief executive officer and managing director. Currently, he deals with wiring harness — an auto-electrical component and also works in the telecom sector. 

Suresh has set up a self- sufficient home that satisfies all the needs from light to water to gas, from natural resources. So he has a solar power plant, biogas plant and rainwater harvesting system at his house and he says that all these ideas were inspired by farmers and villagers. “I have carried out six projects in my house including rainwater harvesting, setting solar power plant, domestic biogas plant, terrace kitchen garden along with in-house forest and air-to-water drinking water system. I am also taking up another project of recycling waste water,” says Suresh when we speak to him. The waste water recycling project will enable use of water for secondary purposes. 

Further, he stresses on the point that all these six projects are for recycling purpose, minimising the health hazards and be as environmental friendly as possible. 

RAINWATER HARVESTING
Explaining the projects one by one, Suresh starts with rainwater harvesting which he installed 25 years ago in his house. Says he, “Rainwater is natural and a precious resource but it gets drained away in huge amounts. In the villages of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, I have seen people collecting water from rooftops in vessels. So I collect water in my terrace, get it filtered in three layers of pebbles, charcoal and sand, and later through a pipe, collect it in an open well built in my house. For a water-starved city, my in-house well is brimming with water.” 

He adds that this water conserving system is simple and does not need any maintenance. He has only incurred piping charges.

TERRACE KITCHEN GARDEN
Suresh also has a terrace garden where he grows his own vegetables. He has 150 pots in which he grows veggies and every months he adds five more pots. He says, “I grow more than 10 to 15 types of vegetables every season. The only work I do is watering these plants and aerating the soil.” 

Apart from this, he has his own in-house forest with bamboos and almond trees which attracts many to his house. 

THE COST FACTOR
Speaking about the total expenses he incurred, Suresh says, “Today installing a 1 kw plant costs Rs 1.2 lakh with battery, but 25 years ago, it cost me around Rs 3.5 lakh. It is cheaper today and can be easily installed. I have spent  around Rs 40,000 for the biogas plant, 

Rs 30,000 for the terrace garden and another Rs 40,000 for the air-to-water machine.” 

SOLAR POWER PLANT
Suresh got the idea for the rooftop solar plant from his visit to Germany, 25 years ago. This power plant of 3 kilowatt (kW) supplies power to 11 fans, 25 lights, two computers, two television sets, a refrigerator, a water pump, a washing machine, a mixer grinder and two inverter air conditioners (since they consume less power). “I installed it in January 2012. During the day time electricity is produced by the solar plant. After consuming the power, the excess is given to the government. This usually happens in Europe and Germany. In the evenings, where there are no UV rays, power is supplied by battery which has been charged by solar power,” describes Suresh.

As far as maintenance is concerned, he says, “Only the surface of the power plant needs to be cleaned once a month.” But before setting up the solar plant, he faced certain challenges. “Not many people were interested in the idea. The vendors suitable for this job and the required components weren’t available. I did have my quota of trial and error before setting up the power plant. I calculated the total daily requirement of the house and installed the power plant with the help of a local vendor,” Suresh explains. 

DOMESTIC BIOGAS PLANT
After setting up the power supply, Suresh set up the domestic biogas plant around seven years ago, which is same as gobar gas plant. He says that in the plant, he uses more of food waste as it is easily available in cities, unlike the cow dung. “In cities, manure is not available, so I use food waste. The methane gas produced in this biogas system has no pressure so there is no chance of any accident. The only disadvantage is that it takes more time for cooking but that’s ok,” he says.

Adding about the waste required for generating the gas, he says, “I use around 3 to 4 kg of waste per day and per month, I get around 10 to 15 kg of gas. Since there is not much waste generated at my house, I collect it from neighbours and from two vegetable stores within my locality. Instead of polluting the surroundings and spreading health hazards, it is better to use it for gas generation.” 

AIR TO WATER MACHINE
Based on an Israeli technology, he purchased a machine from Mumbai that absorbs the humidity from the air and converts it into potable water. For a place that has humid weather, this system can be more beneficial in conserving water. Says Suresh, “People here look for water and I have an abundance of water.” 

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