Photographer: | power generated windmill Photographer: | Varuna windmill in Coimbatore
06 Oct / 2009Program by:

Auroville Powered by Wind

The wind flies wild in the hills of Coimbatore. The idea to harness it for the benefit of Auroville was sparked in the minds of those responsible for bringing Varuna to life: Arjun, Carel, Michael B., Toby and Ulli. Varuna is a privately owned company managed by Aurovilians and friends of Auroville. The goal of the company is to assist Auroville in becoming a carbon neutral site. Currently, donations from monies received as a result of selling the electricity to TNEB will be given to Auroville, but future ideas include wheeling the electricity directly to Auroville.
The recording consists of highlights from a presentation given by the directors of Varuna.

Some information on Varuna project after the meeting held on the 6th of October
RAS had not enough time to publish a complete transcription of the 6th October meeting. As many questions are being raised by people in the community we agreed to publish a synthesis of the answers given by Varuna executives at this occasion. We believe, this will help the collective reflexion to proceed constructively. We will publish an extensive transcription in the next week News and Notes.
Meanwhile the power point presentation of Varuna project is being available on AV Net; the record of the meeting is also being uploaded on AV Radio.


Varuna’s objectives
·””””’ To create a wind park of initially up to five windmills for the benefit of Auroville. More windmills will follow later.
·””””’ The second objective is to set up a desalination plant on the beach to create an alternative water supply for Auroville in order to reduce the stress on the aquifers which are going down every year. The plant would also be a backup for the case that saline water introduces into the ground water which, according to many specialists, will happen at some time in future, between 3-15 years. We hope to start this environment friendly project after 3 years.
The Memorandum and Articles of Association of Varuna clearly define the objectives of Varuna, which are all to serve Auroville.

Wheeling of electricity in the grid of Auroville
Wheeling means that the same volume of energy put into the grid by the wind generator, can be taken out of the grid in Auroville, minus a wheeling fee of 5% charged by the TNEB.
The TNEB has two conditions. One is that wheeling can only happen to an organisation that holds at least 26% of the shares of the company that owns the windmill. The second condition is that wheeling can only happen to a high tension connection.
We hope we can overcome the first condition in view of the unique position of Auroville. We plan to ask the TNEB to allow Varuna to donate the energy to the Auroville Foundation. A first step in this direction has already been made.
As for the second condition, at the present moment, Auroville receives the electricity via low-tension transformers. There are five transformers which exclusively serve Auroville. These transformers are TNEB property. The Auroville Foundation will have to purchase or lease these transformers from the TNEB. The metering will then start at the transformers. In that way Auroville can own its own distribution network.
Another advantage of this would be that Auroville could more easily organize back-ups of electricity supply. A generator or solar power plant can be connected to the transformer, so that during power outings the back-up source could feed electricity into our own grid.
Though these scenarios that are most unlikely to happen.
In the case that the TNEB permits wheeling of energy to Auroville, Varuna’s stopping of wheeling would also not affect Auroville as the electricity will continue to be supplied by the TNEB. Auroville simply would have to pay for it.

About Varuna being or not a unit under the Auroville Foundation
The reasons not to be a unit under the Auroville Foundation are financial and commercial and legal.
·””””’ The first wind generator has been purchased without loans. The second wind generator, which we would like to be operative by April 2010, will need to be financed by a bank loan. This loan will be repaid within a 3-year period with half of the revenue generated by the first windmill and the full revenue of the second windmill. In the longer term we intend to purchase 3 more windmills, which also will be partly financed by loans. It will be very difficult if not impossible for the Auroville Foundation to obtain these loans.
·”””” Varuna must be able to operate quickly, without having to wait for government permissions. For example:
o”””” Land on the beach (for the desalination power plant) was purchased from the Auroville Foundation about one and half year ago, but till date the ownership certificates have not been given, even though the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation and the HRD Ministry have approved the sale.
o”””” When we purchased the windmill, due to legal problems, we had to decide on a change of plot within 2 weeks. This would not be possible if we would have to obtain permissions from the Foundation and/or the HRD Ministry. If Varuna would have been a unit under the Auroville Foundation, it would have lost a full year of wind-energy generation.
·”””” We wanted the Auroville Foundation to be 26% shareholder in Varuna. We planned to make a donation to the Auroville Foundation, with which it could purchase these shares. However, research showed that the Auroville Foundation cannot accept this offer as there would be a high risk that it would lose its income tax exempt status if it invests in commercial companies.
·”””” We investigated if the Auroville Foundation could be partner in a so-called section 25 company (a kind of public charity company) but this too was not possible for the same reason. Moreover, we were informed that if Varuna would be a section 25 company, Auroville could not be the sole beneficiary.

Varuna shares holders
The shares in Varuna are held for 96 % by Michael Bonke and for the remaining 4 % by the other four directors, Arjun, Carel, Ulli B. and Toby,
Michael, as majority shareholder, has the legal power to remove the other directors. The other directors, acting in majority, have the legal power to take decisions to which Michael could be opposed. The directors do not receive any remuneration from Varuna for services rendered.
The Secretary of the Auroville Foundation has written to the RRO that Varuna is entirely for the benefit of Auroville and that the Auroville Foundation has no objection that these Aurovilians act in the capacity of director and that this will in no way affect their status of getting the long term visa to live in Auroville. Moreover

Varuna’s donation
As long as wheeling conditions are not met, Varuna will make a monetary donation estimated at Rs 30 lakhs a year, to be used for reducing the costs of electricity in Auroville.
Our principal condition is that Varuna’s donation should be linked to creating a sustainable community which is trying to be carbon neutral and trying to reduce the internal exchange of money. Varuna has discussed the use of the donation with the community-appointed Budget Coordination Committee and has come to a joint agreement.
Varuna is open to support alternate systems to reduce dependency on the electricity provided by the TNEB as and when they become available.(solar panels produced in India are not reliable enough)

Reducing Auroville’s carbon footprint
By installing windmills, Varuna reduces the need to create environment-polluting power stations. The electricity Auroville consumes is produced by the Nevelli Lignite Corporation. The energy produced by Varuna’s wind mill will be used elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and will reduce the CO2 footprint of Tamil Nadu as a whole, which includes Auroville.

Electricity for the nearby villages
The issue to provide electricity for the nearby village has not been discussed. We have only managed so far to get the first windmill up and running. No decision regarding the villages will be taken before complete consultation with the relevant Auroville groups

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