INDIA; EMBRACING THE POWER OF THE SUN

Now an impression has been created that solar power could be the panacea for solving all issues related to climate change and energy independence for India.There is no doubt that India loves the Sun god and the country as a whole is bestowed with more than 300 sunny days which makes it very attractive option to generate electricity.To overcome the electricity shortage solar fundamentals are so compelling in India that the sector is bound to grow vividly with India likely to become one of the largest solar markets globally in the next 3 years. India is already on track to add more solar capacity than Germany in 2015 and enter the top five solar markets globally. By changing the solar specific Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) target for 2022 from 3% to 10.5% of all power consumption in the country – yet to be ratified under the Electricity Act 2003 – India plans to increase its solar capacity from 20 GW by 2020 to 100 GW by 2022.

The 100 GW target is split between 60 GW of utility scale projects and 40 GW of rooftop and other small grid-connected projects. Both central and state governments have announced a number of schemes and policies to accelerate solar project development. The central government has taken the lead with the National Solar Mission (15 GW of projects by 2019) and initiatives such as the solar parks policy and an interest rate subvention scheme. Many states,including Andhra Pradesh (5 GW), Telangana (5 GW), Maharashtra (7.5 GW),Tamil Nadu (3 GW) and Karnataka (2 GW) have followed with huge targets.There will be several challenges to achieving these plans, including land acquisition, transmission and financing. But the biggest challenge will be the enforcement of RPOs and the poor bankability of India’s distribution companies (DISCOMs). As electricity is a concurrent subject, i.e., the center and the states both legislate on it but the states have the option to disregard the central government directives.

Growth of rooftop solar capacity is largely dependent on its financial competitiveness vis-a-vis grid power. The government has belatedly shown its commitment to this market by announcing encouraging financing initiatives (priority sector lending, interest rate subvention) improving availability and cost of debt financing to go along with wide ranging net-metering policies.

The outlook for the solar sector in India is extremely positive, driven by powerful underlying fundamentals such as the rising cost of conventional power, environmental concerns, falling costs of solar power, high solar irradiation, a high power deficit and the ability of solar to quickly bring power generation capacity online. These fundamentals coupled with several state and central government initiatives should result in India becoming one of the largest solar markets in the world.

However, there is still a huge catch: the sun is available only for half a day and hence excessive over reliance on solar power can be very hazardous during darkness. So,now we are tussling with some basic problems like :-

  • Is solar energy the real solution to India’s energy crisis ?
  • Could Solar solve India’s peak demand problem?
  • Can solar energy be stored?

Here I’m trying to relate you with some innovative solar energy storage and solar practicability in India.

As we all know that power can’t be stored. But in the case of solar power, with using some innovative technologies we could  store the solar energy. When the sun shines, we can store the electricity generated by solar cells or steam-driven turbines by using batteries (technically energy stored as electrochemical potential) or supercapacitors (energy stored in an electric field, due to the spatial separation of positive and negative charges). Then we can release electrical energy when it is cloudy or at night.

There are at least two other ways to store solar energy for use later. First, the thermal energy of concentrated sunlight can be stored in the heat capacity of a molten salt (the liquid form of an ionic compound like sodium chloride) at a high temperature. When electricity is needed later, heat is transferred from the molten salt to water, using a heat exchanger to generate steam to drive a turbine.

A second method of harnessing and storing solar energy is to employ sunlight to produce a fuel. For example,a photo electrochemical cell uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, which can be stored as fuels. These gases are then recombined to generate electricity in a device known as a fuel cell. An attractive feature of this approach is that the byproduct of the fuel cell reaction is simply water.

We should not forget that sunlight can also be used to directly heat a tank of water located outside the home, and that solar heated water can be used for washing or showering; this is common in parts of the developing world.

While many of the technologies described here are in use on a small scale today, we must continue to develop innovative methods of storing solar energy and promote sustainable energy policies that benefit generations to come.

The generation of solar electricity coincides with the normal peak demand during daylight hours in most places, thus mitigating peak energy costs, brings total energy bills down, and obviates the need to build as much additional generation and transmission capacity as would be the case without PV.

India being a tropical country receives adequate solar radiation for 300 days, amounting to 3,000 hours of sunshine equivalent to over 5,000 trillion kWh. Almost all the regions receive 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per sq mtrs with about 2,300–3,200 sunshine hours/year, depending upon the location. Potential areas for setting up solar power plant can be analyzed using  HYPERLINK “http://www.mnre.gov.in/images/spv-map.jpg” \t “_blank” Solar irradiation map of India.

Author – Mirdu Amin Sarkar
MBA(PM),PGDC(TPPE),B.TECH(MECH)

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