India bets its energy future on solar—in ways both small and big

Excerpt from nationalgeographic.com

Married at 13 and a mother by 16, Rukmini Katara once ran a small grocery store with her husband in her village near Udaipur in Rajasthan. Like millions of rural Indian women, she expected to follow a familiar path: doing what her husband’s family asked of her, devoting herself to domestic responsibilities at the cost of any personal ambition. But Katara has become the face of an effort to ignite a solar energy revolution in India’s villages.

Katara, 34, is the C.E.O. of Durga Energy, a company that manufactures solar panels and is staffed by about 40 women—including many who never finished high school. Launched with help from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and the Rajasthan state government, the company has sold more than 300,000 solar panels since its factory began operations in 2017.

Most have gone to homes, businesses, and institutions in and around Dungarpur, a small town near Udaipur, where Durga Energy is located, in a neighborhood a few blocks away from the town’s main thoroughfare. One solar installation that Katara is particularly proud of is a set of panels that powers the pump of a well in a nearby village. It saves dozens of women the daily effort of drawing water by hand.

“When we started, we never thought we would be able to achieve what we have in these four years,” says Katara, who often smiles radiantly when she speaks.