Make your own electricity
Source The Hindu: Tired of big electricity bills, power cuts and voltage fluctuations? It’s time to generate power using the sun’s energy. Hema Vijay reports
Think of it. The India receives five trillion watts of energy from the sun in one year. “This is enough to generate all the electricity India would need in the next decade, even using solar modules with a modest conversion efficiency of 12%,” points out S. Rajendran, consultant, solar-integrated power solutions. So, electricity supply shouldn’t really be a problem in a tropical country like India. In fact, in many German cities, people sell the excess electricity they make from solar panels in their own homes to the state electricity grid!
Generating electricity from solar energy is a simple process. Photovoltaic panels convert the solar energy from sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect for feeding into the household electricity supply or into storage batteries.
Today, it’s not just cookers and heaters: there are a vast array of solar devices. Firms like Rekha enterprises, Solkar, Teltekh and others offer solar fans, home lighting systems, portable and emergency lanterns, garden lights, street lamps (ideal for apartment complexes), solar pumps for drawing water, specific UPS-inverter systems designed for houses, common areas, shops, restaurants, offices etc, and even solar power plants.
In most cases, buying a solar device makes is a one-time investment, without recurring expenses. Dr. S. Balasundaram, who has gone in for a solar light-and-fan solar device, says, “I keep the solar panel in my balcony, and charge the light and fan during the day. Apart from the initial cost of Rs. 3,000, there has been no other expense.” He adds, “I would like to go in for a total solar-powering up of my house, but the capital cost is prohibitive now. We need more subsidy.”
Likewise, V. R. Janakiraman, who bought a 100-litre capacity solar water heater 15 years ago for an effective cost of Rs.7,000, says, “I have hot water even at midnight as heat is retained for 48 hours. Over the years, I have got my money back several fold through savings in electricity consumption.”
Roof-top power plant
Today, there are several rooftop solar power systems available in the market, which can power anything from lights and fans to the TV and computer, and even the fridge, depending on the system you go in for.
The rooftop solar systems are eligible for capital subsidy. “On buying a one-kilowatt solar device that costs between Rs. 2.35 to 2.75, you can claim a reimbursement subsidy of 57 to 70,000 rupees from the Ministry of Renewable Energy, through Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA),” says S. Rajendran. Solar devices are eligible for bank loans and tax rebates too. Nandalala Seva Samithi Trust has been using a rooftop solar power plant for a year now. Its coordinator, C.S. Ravindran, says, “We now save about 25 per cent of electricity. Besides, it has ensured uninterrupted power supply. In the long run, the system is a great boon, but the reimbursement has to be made faster and smoother for attracting more users”.
Empowering the public
If any building — homes, offices, or institutions capitalises on solar power, our electricity problems should vanish. In fact, many architects in the west are recommending that the entire roof be made into one huge solar panel with the proper orientation, to make the building largely independent of the electricity grid.
Rooftop solar power systems to power common utilities can also be made mandatory for new buildings, the same way rain water harvesting was made mandatory to great effect. “A house or a building complex that takes a crore of rupees or more to construct can easily set aside a lakh of rupees for solar infrastructure,” S. Rajendran adds, “If the government grants more subsidies for solar devices, power shortages will become redundant. It will be a case of empowering the people to power up.”