Solar energy

Sushil Reddy (r), Indian American Rinal Chheda, and Anuj Karkare, all graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, recently rode on e-bikes in California, from San Francisco to San Diego, to raise awareness about solar energy as a sustainable energy source. (photo provided)

Doing what he does requires grit and determination. In the summer of 2016, IIT-Bombay alum Sushil Reddy rode a solar-powered electric bicycle through nine states of India in 79 days, traveling over 4,613 miles across the length and breadth of the country.

Enroute, he delivered seminars on solar energy along with demonstrating the use of devices like solar chargers and solar lamps to people living in cities, small towns and villages. The initiative, which he called “The SunPedal Ride,” earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the ‘Longest Journey on a Motorized Bicycle.’

After doing a similar solar e-bike ride in the French Alps in June 2017 for the same reason – to push for solar/renewable energy and sustainable and clean transportation — the young Indian engineer recently undertook a journey on the West Coast, from San Francisco to San Diego, along with Indian American Rinal Chheda, and Anuj Karkare, both alumni of IIT-Bombay.

Beginning Aug. 19, the solar awareness ride covered areas like Santa Cruz, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, Long Beach, and Dana Point before touching the finishing line in San Diego, Aug. 31.

“It’s been a very interesting journey,” Chheda, from Louisiana, told India-West a few hours after completing the ride. “We met people who said it was easy and convenient to convert from the grid to solar-powered energy and then we also met a couple of people in the smaller towns who said the local utility board wasn’t very excited about having everyone, especially the bigger farmers to switch to solar.”

Chheda said that the trio was contemplating on riding together again but were still working on the specifics. The idea of them adopting a village school in India and making it self-sustainable in terms of electricity needs is also in the pipeline, she added.

Reddy completed his graduation in energy engineering in 2013 before beginning to work for a solar energy company.

“While working for the company, I realized that there is a lack of awareness amongst people in India about solar energy,” Reddy told India-West by phone while he was on his way to the University of California, San Diego, Aug. 31, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture. “People have seen solar panels but they don’t know how to design a system for their home, which is quite easy.”

The e-bike that Reddy rides has been designed by him with some help from his friends and colleagues at kWatt Solutions – a renewable energy startup incubated at his alma mater where Reddy works on a part-time basis – and runs on solar batteries.

During his rides, he encourages people to use renewable energy, highlights the importance of sustainable solar energy and electric transportation, including global trends of solar energy, and how people can integrate solar energy into their lives.

Currently, Reddy is also fundraising to help a village school in Jatwara, Rajasthan, have access to solar energy. For this initiative, they have collaborated with an NGO, Hockey Village India, which supports rural areas in India and gives the children there a chance for a better education. It also provides access to sporting facilities.

“This village does not have electricity,” said Reddy. “We are raising funds to have solar power in this village. That is also one of our parallel aims.”

Reddy said that many corporate organizations have supported them in this endeavor.

Their primary goal, Reddy said, is to get these corporate organizations to host more awareness events in India since there’s a lack of information in the country vis-a-vis the Western world, and most people still lack access to solar energy.

Reddy said their plan is to cover parts of Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, so that “We get a network of solar energy companies which would lead to awareness events and campaigns in India.”

“One of the companies that is sponsoring us, Solar Edge, we are trying to help them do that. They are also trying to capture the solar energy market in India,” he noted.

Reddy has also been invited to the Solar Power International Conference to be held in September in Las Vegas, where he will be displaying the solar e-bike and talking about the solar energy awareness cause.

“It is each and everyone’s responsibility to contribute their bit to mitigate climate change which is going to affect the world,” he told India-West.

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