15 Nov 10 Using the sun to light the nights

Recently while doing a study to gauge the investment attractiveness of certain Indian states for a global auto manufacturing company I realized that the biggest hurdle was that most of these states were facing a severe energy deficit. In fact India has a power deficit of around 10 to 17% where, a third of its population still has no access to electricity. Power cuts and load shedding is a daily phenomenon. The country, though rich in coal and abundantly gifted with renewable energy, is still unfortunately a net importer of energy. Currently more than 25% of India’s energy needs are met through crude oil imports. As per the world energy outlook report, India is expected to become the 3rd largest importer of oil in the world by 2025. This, however, will not be sustainable in the long run given the high volatility of crude oil prices. All this points to starting an aggruntitledessive pursuit of alternate energy sources like solar, wind, biofuels, etc. At present the energy mix in India is dominated by coal, which contributes to more than 48% of the total primary energy production while less than 1% is contributed by solar energy.

Using sunlight to create energy is the most promising source of renewable energy for India as it gets more than 300 sunny days a year. In fact due to its geo-physical location India gets solar energy equal to nearly 5,000 trillion kwh/year, which is actually far more than India’s total energy consumption. Although the world has progressed significantly in generation of solar power, India has fallen short to achieve this momentum and produces less than 5 mw of solar power every year.

Challenges and Constraints

India’s biggest challenge is that the local solar industry is highly dependent on imports of vital raw materials including silicon wafer used for solar panels and cells. Apart from that, currently, solar energy in India faces two fundamental challenges; cost and land acquisition for erecting solar photovoltaic (PV) plants. The capital investment required for developing solar power is about INR 16-18cr/mw, which is more than four times the cost required in conventional coal based power generation. Though the cost of solar technology has been gradually coming down over the years it is still economically unviable for power generation. The production cost ranges from INR 15-30 per unit of solar energy compared to around INR 5-8 per unit for conventional energy.

The other concern is the amount of land required for erection of solar power panels. Around 1 km² of land is needed for every 20 to 60 mw generated and that can cause a strain on the available land resource inuntitled India. The design, more suitable for India, could be an individual rooftop power generation system which can be connected via a local grid. However, creating such an infrastructure needs easy availability of affordable solar technology which can attract the individual household consumer. That might be possible in the future, as PV is expected to get more and more affordable.

Government initiative

In the latest budget for 2010-11, the Government of India announced an allocation of INR 1,000cr towards the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) and the establishment of a Clean Energy Fund. JNNSM’s main objective is to increase capacity of solar energy generation to 1,000mw by 2013, 10,000mw by 2017 and to 20,000mw by 2022. Many incentives have been offered to participants in the solar industry, such as a 10 year tax holiday for PV and thermal solar companies set up before 2020, lesser custom duty, exemptions on excise duty on specified equipment and affordable loans. The Government also provides financial help of INR 12/unit for solar PV and INR 10/unit for solar thermal power fed to the electricity grid from a solar energy plant having a capacity of 1mw and above for 10 years. A number of large solar projects have been planned by the Government including some in the Thar desert, which has been demarked for solar projects sufficient to generate power up to 700-2,100gw.

Foreign interest

Many foreign companies are eyeing the huge untapped and lucrative share of the Indian solar market which is expected to grow to around INR 15,000cr by 2013. Foreign firms such as China’s Suntech, US based First Solar and Taiwan’s Motech Industries are already planning to foray into the Indian markets and compete with domestic players.

Solar Power – The future

I feel a new era in solar energy is surely round the corner. It has the potential of creating job opportunities at all levels, particularly in the rural areas. It is expected that by 2020, installed solar capacity in the world would be about 20 to 40 times its present level, but it will still amount to only about 3-6% of global power generation capacity. Nevertheless, I feel that the economics of solar energy are improving due to economies of scale, costs reductions and newer technologies. The Government is also dishing out an attractive picture of India’s massive potential in renewable energy with a side dish of incentives to attract more FDI in this sector. So I think the time is really ripe for foreign players to ride this opportunity and make it a win-win situation. India’s solar energy sector truly needs all hands on deck.

Aniket Pargaonkar

As a project manager with ValueNotes, Aniket managed Indian & international clients from across industries such as engineering products and lighting & lighting equipment.

  • Rahul
    Posted at 07:22h, 17 February Reply

    One very important aspect is also on the fact that
    1 Litre of Kerosene generates much more energy than 15 times energy generated by 1MW of SPV. Also 1 kg of Coal generates more energy than Equal unit of SPV.

    So apart from capital costs and land, the technological upgradation in terms of efficieny is also the need of an hour. At present one of the highest most efficient SPV panel is from SHARP @ 17.5% efficiency. i.e. only 17.5% of input is converted into energy (stored in batteries)

  • Rahul
    Posted at 07:20h, 25 January Reply

    The major isue for the high scalability of the PV panels is (1) cost economics & (2) product efficiency.
    Non-std size panels also have lower warranty periods. Currently the highest efficiency declared panel in India is from Sharp at 17.5%. Chinese PV panels show efficiency in range of 9 to 11%. Although the costs have comedown significantly since 2006 but at the same time compromise over the silicon material quality is also affecting the performance.

    Currently China has the monopoly market in supply of the Silicon wafers & Silicon Amorphous for manufacturing of PV panels. The chinese companies have also bought our companies in other nations like Australia, US who were the earlier major suppliers of this material.

  • Brinton
    Posted at 09:22h, 05 May Reply

    Hey there, great site, where did you come up with the info in this conclusion? Im lucky I found it though, I’ll be checking back soon to see what other blogs you have.

  • Janie Radcliffe
    Posted at 07:34h, 11 April Reply

    My partner and i will have really been researching into solar power for nearly a year or so and then my partner and i eventually made the actual commitment based mostly on upon the pairing of the governtment incentive options in addition to extremely affordable loans. We will have been looking into photo voltaic energy for roughly a yr and the two of us eventually made the actual commitment based mainly on the mixture of the governtment incentive options coupled with very economical loans. I literally cannot comprehend how economical it all was and thus we will have ended up being a solar household for around a calendar month in addition almost everything seem to be as though it is simply working out great. We can essentially observe how very much electric power our organization aer preserving each and every night as well as it is really pretty astounding. I alway suspected that photo voltaic must have been backed by just a lot of media hype however , We can inform everyone that the product happens to be the authentic deal. My spouse and i wish we had implemented this years ago.

  • zuhare ahmed
    Posted at 06:13h, 16 February Reply

    Dear Mariam,
    Your team at” Valuenotes” has compiled a very good article on solar energy.
    I think availability of space for installing panels should not be much of a constraint in realizing the full potential of solar energy. Every house and every building has a roof top which could be utilized for installing the solar panels.What is needed is public awareness about the uses of solar energy through educational campaigns.If we start now at schools,twenty years hence could see a visible change in the energy scenario.
    Simultaneously,government-aided massive efforts are needed to have the raw materials and manufacturing facilities for indigenous production of photo-voltaic cells and panels.We cannot be dependent on imports.We have to have our own sources of silicon wafers.It may be worthwhile to accord priority to researches in this direction.

  • Sunil Philip
    Posted at 08:35h, 26 November Reply

    Hi Aniket,

    Truely impressive article. I found your link while searching for some info on Solar Energy. Eventhough I’ve read other articles, your’s gave me the full picture. Short and to the point. And indeed a great effort to educate people abt the potential of Renewable energy, especially solar which will lead the pack in future.

  • Nandakumar Premchand
    Posted at 13:32h, 22 November Reply

    Lovely effort this Aniket. Solar energy should be the way to go, given the issues with energy!

  • Abhay Bagewadi
    Posted at 23:23h, 16 November Reply

    Hi Aniket, right on track. Here in the UK solar panels are being favoured by new housing constructions. Its expensive to begin with and you would recover your money in around 10 years. But after that it makes a huge savings on your bills and also helps the CO2 emissions. The other advantage is that the govt can use electricity generated in excess for local street lights.etc and will pay you for it as well.

  • Vaishali Pargaonkar
    Posted at 10:47h, 16 November Reply

    Good work on data collation. Keep going!
    And very true. Little does India start realizing how much potential and resources it has! However, its good to see attempts charted out in this direction.

  • Dr. Vilas Bidaye
    Posted at 06:14h, 16 November Reply

    Very good effort for awakening people who are trying a solution for a major problem of this planet.Present sources for energy like coal and petrol are not going to last for ever and everyone will depend on alternate sources. More efforts should be concentrated on Solar Energy and more research should be encouraged for its preservation for 12 hours. Your efforts are praise worthy. Keep it up.

  • Anuprita Deshpande
    Posted at 15:54h, 15 November Reply

    Good one, Aniket.

    Incidentally, I saw most of the hotels in Guhagar, Konkan using Solar energy. As mentioned by you, hopefully we will see more of them in the years to come.

    Anu Deshpande

  • S.Shekhar
    Posted at 15:09h, 15 November Reply

    Very Good. Excellent. Your thinking is on right track and your vision may and should come true. This should be blessings to mankind and should safeguard deteriorating enviroment.

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