The Telegraph
Friday , January 31 , 2014
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Solar-powered signs suffer dusty eclipse

The Ranchiite who expects things not to work won’t be surprised. The solar-powered variable message signs, which Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) installed at 10 city junctions three years ago, aren’t working for several months.

But why the signs — with speed displays, messages like Go and Stop and visuals such as arrows — don’t work can still surprise hardened cynics. Solar panels can’t absorb sunrays to generate power and make the signs work because a thick coat of dust has settled on their surfaces.

The RMC, which installed the signs at Khel Gaon, Argora Chowk, Harmu Chowk, Hinoo Chowk, Ratu Road, Kanke Chowk, Kutchery Chowk, Karamtoli Chowk, Shraddhanand Chowk and Sujata Chowk, handed their maintenance to public works department (PWD).

For years, no one in the PWD bothered to wipe dust off the panels. Commuter inconvenience apart, the defunct solar-powered signs prove that Rs 2.5 crore that RMC spent on them have been reduced to dust.

“Maintenance of the signs is really a great problem, as dust which gathers on the top of solar panels, which results in their irregular functioning,” said RMC deputy CEO S.K. Lal.

He said they had given the onus of maintenance to traffic police once they realised the PWD was not doing its job. “Last year, traffic SP Rajiv Ranjan Singh promised us they would get the signs working. They also floated a tender six months ago to invite bidders for its maintenance. After that, I am not aware of the status.”

When contacted, traffic SP Singh said they had “approached Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) for the maintenance”.

But he also added that they wanted to overhaul the whole system, which means new panels and display boards would be needed.

That means that traffic department will again have to approach RMC, which will then forward the application to Ranchi district administration, which on its part will ask Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA) to do the needful.

When asked, Sudhakar Pandey, JREDA project officer, said “no one has approached us so far”.

But he added that he was hopeful of funds allocation for solar projects in the coming budget, 2014-15. “During the last fiscal, there were no budgetary allocations for these jobs.”

On the defunct variable signs, Pandey did not make any direct comment. He only said: “At JREDA, we offer a comprehensive maintenance contract for five years.”

Are you listening, RMC and traffic department?