Solar Suresh: 75-years Young Environmentalist Shares Key Lessons on Sustainable Living


Earth has provided us unconditionally with ample resources. However, over the years, humans have made numerous discoveries and innovations, most of which are useful for mankind but detrimental to the Earth. This Environment Day, HappyAging is on a lookout for older adults who have made an effort towards solving the world’s pollution problems by adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

In a chaotic city like Chennai, there is a home nestled in the lap of green forest. It is a fully self-sufficient residence which doesn’t use any nonrenewable resources of energy. Can you believe this? Yes, rather than talking about environmental issues, D Suresh and his family have paved the way towards a sustainable environment.

D Suresh, who is popularly known as Solar Suresh has completed Mechanical Engineering from IIT, Madras in 1967 and post graduation from IIM, Ahmadabad in 1970. He has worked for 15 years in the corporate sector and 20 years in the textile industry, wherein he worked in various capacities, including MD and CEO. Later he took his entrepreneurial plunge to find SAKS Ancillaries Ltd. Then he entered in the telecommunication industry with other entrepreneurial venture in the ‘Last-Mile Connectivity Space’. After retirement, he installed 6 renewable energy plants for ‘sustainable aging’.

75-year-old Solar Suresh shares 7 learnings leading a completely eco-friendly, self-sufficient and self-sustaining life by producing enough renewable energy which one needs to survive. What are those? Have a look:

Rain Water Harvesting

1. “Water as a resource could appear to be surplus in Indian monsoons but one needs to learn to preserve this precious natural resource.”

“Previously, mankind used to store water in drums. I used the advance technology to store more water,” said Solar Suresh.

Rainwater harvesting literally means the storage of rainwater during the monsoon season for the purpose of using it during periods of water scarcity. It is a process used for collecting and storing rainwater for human use. This water is stored with the intention of reuse during the dry season or drought.

Speaking of Chennai, which is facing water shortage issues, Suresh showed how he accumulates water on his huge terrace. He stores it in the well and using filtration system the water is made available for drinking and other domestic usage.

Solar Generated Electricity

2. “In a country like India, we must learn about the different implementations and usage of solar power beyond just heating water.”

During his visits to Germany, he got inspired by the wise use of solar energy for generating electricity regardless of facing scarcity of it. In a country like India and a city like Chennai, there is an abundance of sunlight. However, it was little difficult to install a solar electric power plant at domestic level as earlier it was used only at a commercial level.

After trying and waiting for the installation of the plant for 4-5 years, he met a vendor who helped him in installing a solar power plant of 1 KW in 2012. He said that they could run all the electronic appliances like lights, fans, TV, refrigerator using the solar generated electricity. In June 2015, he upgraded the solar power plant to 3KW and also connected a pair of inverter ACs to it.

Biogas Plant

3. “Today, the primary agenda for anyone is health. But poor solid waste management resulting in the spread of diseases is one of the biggest problems that we face. Biogas would be an environment friendly solution to this.”

Cow dung is used as cooking fuel in the Indian villages. From this pattern, D Suresh had thought of recycling kitchen waste for the production of biogas. As the bacteria for production of methane are present in the cow dung, he fed the plant first time with it. Now every week he gives 3-4 Kg of kitchen waste and in return, he receives the output in the form of 14-15 litres of biogas, which is equal to the capacity of a domestic LPG cylinder.

The slurry or leftover of the waste is used as organic manure. Thus the kitchen waste gives two useful products:

  1. Biogas: Used for cooking
  2. Slurry: Used as organic manure for plants

Terrace-Kitchen Garden

4. “To grow your own food and watch it grow right in-front of your eyes, is a priceless experience.”

Most of the home cooking needs of Suresh’s family are fulfilled by the terrace kitchen garden. He grows all seasonal vegetables using organic manure produced by biogas. Capsicum, lady finger, pumpkin, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, carrot, radish, spinach, mint are a few of them.

Forest at Home

5. “Use greenery to create a happy and a lively world of your own.”

Despite being a part of a popular residential locality, he can escape into his own green world. 25 years ago, he planted Bamboo, Neem, Badam and now these trees have grown huge, creating a forest like view for his family and neighborhood. This forest also consists of some creepers and bushes.

Drinking Water from Atmospheric Air

6. “Using innovations from other countries on our issues, can help solve problems faster.”

This project of extracting drinking water from atmospheric air is inspired by Israeli technology. Despite not having enough resources, Israel is a self-sufficient country today.
To install this system domestically, it costs around 40 thousand. It produces around 25 litres of water per day. When we calculate, it is approximately 50 paise per litre. It works using electricity and in his case, solar-generated electricity.

Future Plans

7. “For every problem, there is a solution.
Do not try to shift the problem, look for real solutions.”

When talking about future aspects Suresh mentioned about the sewage water treatment, usage of human waste for biogas production and solar-powered car. He had a valid point about the policy of electric cars. He said, “if we are using electricity for charging batteries, then it will be only shifting of usage from one non-sustainable resource to another. Solar powered car, wherein the batteries are charged using solar-generated electricity, can be a solution for this issue.”

When we connect all the dots, we can say that, the theme of this self-sufficient house is ‘Environment’. We have all learned this in basic science. Solar Suresh is the one who is practically implementing this. In India, it can be easily implemented. But it is more of an attitudinal problem than technical.

He signed off with a very strong message, “We must leave a better planet for our next generations.”

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” – John F. Kennedy

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