Sathyabama University, Chennai, India is preparing nearly 30,000 meals everyday for the hostel students using solar energy.
Each solar dish is made up of reflective glass and measures 10 square metres. 110 concentrated solar dishes which would supply 2.2 MW thermal power to the kitchen is spread over 1,100 square feet on the mess terrace. A solar concentrator dish, on an average, saves 5 KW of power per hour. The total cost of the cooking system is Rs 1.2-crore. The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TNED) jointly provided 50% subsidy for the project.
The company will maintain the solar dishes for five years. This kitchen, by replacing LPG with solar dishes, saves nearly Rs 20 lakh every year. Power from solar dishes ensures that a meal is cooked in half-an-hour, while it may take one-and-a-half hour to cook the same using LPG. These solar dishes also help to keep the kitchen clean and hygeinic. Additional power generated from these solar dishes would be used for heating water in the hostel.
Currently the university is only preparing lunch using solar since sunlight is available only after 9.30 am. In this backdrop, the University research and development department has planned to explore means of storing the energy generated during the daytime so that the same can be used for preparing tea, breakfast and dinner as well.
This system which is the largest solar project of its kind was developed by Gadhia Solar Energy Systems, an Ahmedbad-based company, along with Sathyabama University. The company has also developed such systems in Tirumala Tirupati Devesthanam (TTD) in 2002. The TTD system has 106 solar dishes and helps cook 30,000 meals everyday. At Sringeri temple in Karnataka, a similar system helps cook food for around 5,000 devotees at a time.
Note: In Tamil Nadu, out of 365 days in a year, the state experiences hot weather for 320 days and is ideal for tapping.