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Surgeon looks up to sun for energy

- Infuriated over frequent power cuts, doctor installs solar panels at his residence and clinic

Power cuts would bug octogenarian surgeon Rudra Kumar Varma so much that few years ago he took a decision that not only solves his energy problems but also helps the environment.

Varma Nursing Home near the central jail in Gaya, around 110km south of Patna, has been running on 100 and odd solar panels for five years now.

From ultrasound to X-ray machines, pathology lab to operating theatre, lights and fans to air-conditioner, 82-year-old Varma has gone strong on solar power.

His home — adjacent to the nursing home — is also partially dependent on solar panels. Around 50 solar panels have been installed at the home to meet the energy needs.

The first solar panel was fitted in the nursing home nine years back with an aim to fight power cuts. “I felt helpless as the power supply played hide-and-seek when I would perform surgeries. In Gaya, residents have to face frequent power cuts and you can hardly do anything about it. This forced me to think about making alternative arrangements for my nursing home. Initially, I bought a diesel generator but it increased my expenditure. So I thought to give solar energy a try. Around 2005, I installed the first 75W solar panel. Slowly, I switched to a 100W and later 150 to 250W solar panels. By 2009, the entire nursing home was completely dependent on solar panels for energy,” said Varma who returned to Gaya in 1968 after practising in the UK.

Varma refused to divulge how much he has to spend for his solar initiative or the capacity of the solar panels he uses now. The Telegraph spoke to non-government organisation Greenpeace on how much energy Varma is using.

Greenpeace recently made a documentary on how Varma was performing surgeries with help of energy produced from the solar panels.

Ramapati Kumar, head, renewable energy, Greenpeace, who visited the nursing home recently, said: “Dr Varma is doing a good job and his solar panel establishment is huge. Around 27kW energy is being produced from the set-up. Apart from the operating theatre, Varma can run around six air-conditioners, 100 lights and more than 25 fans at one time. Even in the chief minister’s office, around 100kW energy is being utilised. So, you can understand that Varma is getting almost 25 per cent energy of what the chief minister’s office is getting. It is enough for running a nursing home.”

His lack of dependence on the government for power has made the surgeon happy. “I produce electricity based on my requirements. I know how much electricity I require and I arrange only that much with the help of solar lights. Earlier I used to pay money to the government for buying electricity (read pay bills) but there was no surety of how long I would get power supply,” he said.

His initiatives have also made his colleagues see the light. Ratan Kumar, another surgeon in Gaya, said: “Varma has done a commendable job by installing solar lights at his nursing home. Taking inspiration from him, I am also thinking about installing solar panels at my nursing home. In Gaya, we have to face frequent power cuts and running a nursing home in these conditions is very difficult. Solar panels would definitely alleviate my problem.”


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