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What is Varuna?

Legal structure

The organisation of Varuna consists of Varuna Energy & Water Pvt. Ltd. and Varuna Auroville, a unit of Auroville Foundation. Their objectives and management are the same.

General objectives

The general objectives of Varuna are:

a) To contribute to making Auroville a front-runner in renewable energy and sustainable water management.

b) To make Auroville self-supportive in terms of energy and water needs.

c) To help Auroville manifest a money-free society, by turning electricity and water into free commodities in Auroville.

d) To create material value for Auroville, either in the form of money or in the form of free basic resources, so that Auroville can establish the physical base for its inner and outer progress.

e) To enhance Auroville’s infrastructure in order to secure uninterrupted power supply as well as Auroville’s future water requirements.

f) To contribute towards realising Auroville as a beautiful city according to the vision of the Mother, with gardens, parks, a Matrimandir lake, a hill, etc.

g) To contribute towards setting up a strong industry in Auroville which will be part of Auroville’s material base, and which will, unlike in other cities, enhance the architectural beauty of Auroville by integrating in a beautiful way into the vision of the galaxy layout of the city.

Specific objectives

1. The main aim of Varuna is to create a green energy park for Auroville (mainly wind, eventually also solar) which will be able to meet fully Auroville’s energy-consumption needs now and in the future.
2. The second aim is to support a money-free society in Auroville by providing electricity free of cost, first to all service units, then in a later phase to individuals and other units.
3. A third aim is to build and operate a small desalination plant which can supply water to Auroville, for the future Matrimandir Lake and the nearby villages.

Progress

1. As at 15 August 2012, Varuna has built and operates four wind generators in Tamil Nadu, each of 0.8 megawatt capacity.

Green energy

The four wind generators of Varuna produce about 70 lakhs kWh of electricity, double the present energy requirements of Auroville, which are around 35 lakhs kWh per year.
Auroville is now contributing towards the prevention of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.

The ‘life cycle analysis’ of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for various methods of generating electricity, which includes manufacturing the generating equipment and processing the fuel, is expressed in grams per kilowatt hour (kWh). The figures are an average of the various possible efficiencies which the energy carriers can have.

• Lignite - 1150 to 1200 g/kWh
• Coal - 925 g/kWh
• Natural gas - 430 g/kWh
• Photovoltaic solar - 105 g/kWh
• Wind Power - 12 g/kWh
• Nuclear - 6 g/kWh
• Hydroelectric - 4 g/kWh

The CO2 footprint of Varuna’s four wind generators is about 70,00,000 x 12 grams of CO2 = 84 tons of CO2.

The electricity consumed by Auroville is mainly generated from lignite. Generating the same quantity of electricity using lignite produces 8,400 tons of CO2. So the four Auroville generators are preventing 8,316 tons of CO2 per year from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Plans

Wheeling of energy into Auroville

Owners of wind generators in Tamil Nadu are obliged by law to sell the wind energy generated to TANGEDCO, the Tamil Nadu Generator and Distribution Corporation. The average sale price is Rs 3.39 per kWh, while the purchase price of Auroville services is Rs 7 or more per kWh. The Auroville Foundation has applied for ‘wheeling’, which means that Auroville would be able to use free in Auroville the equivalent of what has been put into the grid by the wind generator, minus an administrative fee. However, this may imply that changes in the Auroville electrical infrastructure may have to be made, such as the purchase and installation of underground cables and transformers. If approved, there will be no further need for Varuna to sell the energy produced and then make donations to Auroville to pay for electricity bills.

Captive sale of generated energy.

In view of the low prices and extraordinary delays in payment by TANGEDCO, Varuna is pursuing the option of entering into a partnership, which would allow the sale of electricity at a higher price to the other partner.

Renewable Energy Certificates.

Varuna is pursuing obtaining Renewable Energy Certificates for energy generated.

A desalination plant for Auroville

A desalination plant at the beach that will benefit Auroville and the coastal villages is in process of being set up. The detailed project report is in preparation, on the basis of which the various permissions will be applied for. This may take one or even two years.
Varuna is exploring different options of how to lay the pipes from the beach to the centre of Auroville.
The project will contribute to Auroville’s water management by providing one more possible water source in addition to groundwater, rainwater and treated wastewater.
The project is also important for the drinking water supply of the coastal villages, as the aquifers are predicted to turn saline in the near future.
We hope within two to three years to be in a position to start operating the plant.

Solar power plant

A 1.2 megawatt solar power plant is planned in the Industrial Zone in Auroville. Site permission has meanwhile been applied for. The plant is conceived to be a grid-feeding plant. Discussions have started with TANGEDCO about a power-purchase agreement for a grid-feeding solar plant of this dimension.

Contributing to an Auroville-owned mini-grid

The electrical infrastructure in Auroville has to be changed from a TNEB-owned public grid to an Auroville-owned independent “mini-grid”. Once this is realised Auroville can create a collective power backup, to get uninterrupted power supply. Varuna is intending to participate in the planning and execution of this change of Auroville’s electrical system.