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The Indian Temple Of Social Innovation

This is a wonderful story of where social innovation meets religion, set in the temple town of Tirumala, in the State of Andra Pradesh in India. Here the dazzling gold-plated temple of Lord Venkateshwara, one of Hinduism's holiest and richest shrines, is using its religious influence and economic power to change the way energy is used here. The temple has an annual income of $340M, mostly from donations, as 50,000-100,000 people visit daily. The heavy visitor traffic puts huge pressure on local resources such as water and electricity.

So the temple is promoting the use of eco-social innovation technologies and will develop the reserve forests around the temple to become carbon sinks (a carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases). LV Subramanyam, Executive Officer of the Temple Trust says, "We currently use a mix of conventional and non-conventional energy sources. Our aim is make the place more reliant on sustainable sources of energy. Most of our devotees are progressive. In a religious place like Tirumala, we can set the example by going green. Probably the impact will be much more than normal government advertisements or publicity."

The community kitchen is open all day. It is the biggest social innovation, green project for the temple, and provides free meals for visitors. It is estimated that 50,000 kilos of rice and lentils are cooked daily. To help with this mammoth task there are rows of solar dishes on the temple roof which move automatically to capture the sunlight. This energy is used to convert water into high pressure steam, which cooks the food in the kitchen below. It generates over 4,000kgs of steam a day at 180 C, making cooking faster and cheaper. As a result, an average of 500 litres of diesel fuel is saved each day.

Switching to green social innovation technologies the temple cuts its carbon emissions and earns a carbon credit, which it can sell. Badal Shaw, Managing Director, Gadhia Solar Energy Systems, which set up the solar cookers, estimates that this has resulted in a reduction of more than 1,350kgs of green house gases in the atmosphere. He says, "This was the first project to get a gold standard certification. It's a registered project and is issuing carbon credits." Now, a local company called Green Energy Solutions wants to develop multiple wind farms to supply the entire temple's energy. The temple city has been identified as a future 'low-carbon footprint city' by European Aid and Development, which works under the European Commission.

The temple is unique because devotees are known to make generous donations of cash and resources, and has found that non-resident Indians are keen to donate sustainable technology. Therefore, the temple wants to facilitate these donations and translate them into wind farms, which will means the entire complex will run on green energy. It believes it's important to educate its pilgrims about social innovation and sustainable sources of energy, and that that knowledge will create more awareness about renewable energy.

Source: Justmeans, 14 Feb, 2012

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