GANDHIGRAM RURAL INSTITUTE: Develops Human Resource in Renewable Energy

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Launch of the Solar Energy Technician Training Programme

Gandhigram Rural Institute (GRI) is the only rural institute in Southern India practicing the three dimensional approach in higher education, i.e., Teaching, Research and Extension. The Rural Energy Centre at GRI was established in 1998 to solve the rural energy crisis. In the first decade, the Centre focussed on creating awareness among the rural masses on the usage of renewable energy. The Centre established a Renewable Energy Park with the support of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Every year about 3,000 persons including students, farmers, members of selfhelp groups (SHGs), NGOs, etc., visit the park.

Globally, India occupies the fourth place in energy consumption. There is a need to add more power generation capacity in order to maintain 8–9 per cent economic growth of India. Opting for conventional energy sources leads to environmental degradation. Several renewable energy technologies have been developed to provide modern energy services for people in lowincome group for sustainable rural development. The main huddles in renewable energy usage are high cost, availability of skilled manpower and lack of R&D in the application of renewable energy sources at the grassroots level. To overcome these shortfalls and to create the human resource for bridging the gap in the renewable energy Sector, the GRI has extensively planned and introduced the programmes described below.

Skill Development Initiatives

The renewable energy devices manufacturing and installation companies need workers with knowledge and skills in renewable energy systems services and maintenance. Without a skilled workforce to manufacture, install, monitor, and maintain renewable energy systems, the nation will be unable to achieve its critically important goals of energy independence and security. Keeping this in mind the Rural Energy Centre of GRI submitted a proposal to MNRE in 2012 and MNRE empanelled eight Institutions/ organizations as ‘National level Trainers for Providing Training to the Technicians on the Installation, Repairing, and Maintenance of Solar Lighting Systems’. GRI is also one among the eight institutions. Further with the financial support of HRDMNRE, Gandhigram started giving training to ITI/diploma holders from the year 2014–15 onwards. GRI exclusively prepared course materials and developed a ‘Hand Book’. Each batch has 30 participants with the well-planned course curricula having 40 per cent lecture with 60 per cent hands-on training. Pre- and postevaluations were also carried out. The details of all the trainees have been prepared and hosted on the MNRE website.

Various skill development initiatives

With this experience the GRI submitted a proposal for the year 2015–16 with the Mission to train a minimum of 500 personals per year in repair and maintenance of solar photovoltaic (SPV) systems and MNRE has accorded sanction for 10 batches with 30 candidates per batch.

Highlights of the Training Programme

Mr R Sugumar (Regt. No 951547427) working in the Border Security Force (BSF) successfully completed the training in the first batch. Based on the experience gained in the training, he services and maintains the solar lights in CENWOSTO BSF, Tekanpur.

Various skill development initiatives

The placement records are as follows:

  • 70 per cent placed in solar industries
  • 15 per cent are self-employed
  • 5 per cent started their own business
  • 10 per cent have gone for higher studies.

Suryamitra Skill Development Programme

Based on the experience, GRI is the first institute in Tamil Nadu to start the ‘Suryamitra Skill Development Programme’ with direct support from the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE). The first batch with 32 students and second batch with 31 students have completed the programme so far.

MTech Renewable Energy Programme

MTech—Renewable Energy is a unique academic programme to create technical manpower to work in the renewable energy sector. The University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi, accorded sanction of this unique programme under Innovative Programme Scheme. This programme aims at meeting the demand of the industry/R&D institutes in terms of technical manpower and also to carry out the research and development of cost-effective renewable energy gadgets, such as solar cooker, solar still, wind water pumping system, biomass gasifiers, and biogas plants. This interdisciplinary programme is of two years (4 Semesters) duration introduced from the academic year 2013–14 onwards with an approved intake of 20 students per year. The admission is based on GATE as well as Non GATE—based on Entrance Examination conducted on PAN India basis. AICTE approval has also been obtained.

The main huddles in renewable energy usage are high cost, availability of skilled manpower and lack of R&D in the application of renewable energy sources at the grassroots level. To overcome these shortfalls and to create the human resource for bridging the gap in the renewable energy sector, the GRI has extensively planned and introduced some useful programmes.

Best Practices


  • Learning while doing approach— More hands-on training rather than classroom teaching
  • Field visit every fortnight
  • Eminent faculty members as well as industrial experts are invited regularly to give lectures to the students. This creates the current research and industrial development in this field.
  • The students become trainers through ToT (Training of Trainers) programme for training solar energy technicians (ITI/Diploma Holders)
Field visits conducted for the students


  • The Centre has latest equipments, such as solar PV test rig, solar thermal test rig, solar concentrating test rig, 50m wind monitoring station, wind turbine test rig, biogas digester and analyser, biomass gasifier and producer gas analyser, fuel cell test rig, power analyser, thermal imager, etc. This entitles the students to work beyond the classroom teaching and helps them to carry out testing, evaluation, and development of renewable energy gadgets.
  • Students published more than 10 papers in the internationally referred journals (including IEEE Xplore) and 30 papers in the international and national conferences.


  • Extension is the integral part of the GRI. During the course work in GRI all the students should undergo VPP (Village Placement Programme) where they should stay in a village for seven days to get village exposure and to find out the grassroots problems.
  • Students visited village industries every fortnight and carried out the energy auditing and made suggestions to them, which is highly appreciated.
  • Students submitted an evaluation report of 1 kW Solar PV System Installed in Dindigul District Cooperatives under Integrated Cooperative Development Project.
  • Students act as ‘Trainer for Solar Technician Training Programme for Women Self-Help Groups’ supported by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
  • As part of Student Social Responsibility (SSR) students visited remote tribal habitats for the evaluation of solar lighting system implemented by the Government of India and made minor repair works.
  • Students took the responsibility of maintaining renewable energy gadgets installed in the institute campus and successfully maintain the same for the past two years.
  • Students also participated in awareness creating among school children and public on ‘renewable energy and energy conservation’.


The students are placed in various sectors—in industry, skill training, international NGOs as well as academic institutions.


With MNRE–NREF (National Renewable Energy Fellowship) three research scholars got the fellowship and completed their research so far. GRI has taken many actionoriented field based research, such as development of energy efficient wooden log stove to noon meal centres; poultry litter gasifiers; solar water pasteurizer, etc. Also they have evaluated more than 3,500 solar home lights and street lights installed in remote tribal habitations of Tamil Nadu with funding from MNRE and TEDA. Based on the report, many of the nonfunctioning systems were put into operation.

The Task Ahead

The GRI has already set a Mission to create technical manpower (500 in number) every year in the renewable energy area. Hence, in addition to solar now GRI focusses to train the candidates in small wind turbine, biomass gadgets repair, and maintenance as per NCVT guidelines.

Regarding MTech–Renewable Energy programme, already necessary infrastructure has been created with cost-effective and energy efficient approach. The next task should be to:

  • create a sophisticated research facility to motivate the student to take a research journey in this area;
  • get the Special Fellowship for MTech–Renewable Energy Students; and
  • increase the number of research fellowships to motivate the youngsters. The GRI marches towards creating technical man power and to support Ministry’s programme to achieve rural energy security of the nation.

Dr V Kirubakaran, Assistant Professor, Rural Energy Centre, Gandhigram Rural Institute– Deemed University, Gandhigram, Tamil Nadu. Email: