|This industrial-scale solar water heating array
supplies 120,000 litres per day at Godavari
Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. in Andhra Pradesh
Editor’s Note: Using sunlight to create electrical and thermal energy remains the most promising source of clean renewable energy, and projections as to how quickly solar power takes off could be grossly understated. As the author points out, the costs for photovoltaic electricity, for example, have dropped by an order of magnitude in the last 30 years.
The challenge however lies in just how much energy solar power would have to displace if it were to become the dominant source of energy in the world. In 2006, according to the International Energy Agency, 80.3% of the world’s energy came from fossil fuel: Oil (34.3%), coal (25.1%) and gas (20.9%). Fully 90.9% of the world’s energy came from combustion, because alongside these fossil fuels in 4th place are “combustible renewables,” mostly wood (10.6%). Include nuclear power (6.5%) and hydro-electric power (2.2%), and you have accounted for 99.5% of the world’s energy!
So where does solar fit into this equation? Most of this last half-percent of one percent of the world’s energy, .41%, is provided from geothermal sources. The energy we love so much, wind and solar, currently only provide .064% and .039% of the world’s power requirements. Put another way, for solar energy achieve its potential and replace all other sources of energy in the world, this .039% would have to increase 2,500 times.
Moreover, since nations such as India and China have only begun to industrialize, and since the industrialized nations only comprise approximately 20% of the world’s population yet consume over 50% of the world’s energy production, it is unlikely that global energy production will not have to increase. It is these sobering realities that should inform any reading of the potential of solar power. – Ed “Redwood” Ring
|The world’s largest solar steam cooking system
at Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh
Human civilization has been witnessing a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels-from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from oil to natural gas; renewables are the present demand…
With the fluctuating high cost of petroleum, minimizing dependence on importing conventional energy resources, stewardship to protect the Planet and providing affordable energy to all, countries including India have stepped up their energy path for harnessing indigenous renewable resources. To tap the infinite energy and transform as well as transmit it to each household, the Indian government has accelerated promotion of the use of universally available Solar Energy.
India due to its geo-physical location receives solar energy equivalent to nearly 5,000 trillion kWh/year, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country today. But India produces a very negligible amount of solar energy – a mere 0.2 percent compared to other energy resources. Power generation from solar thermal energy is still in the experimental stages in India. Up till now, India’s energy base has been more on conventional energy like coal and oil. However, India has now attained 7th place worldwide in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cell production and 9th place in Solar Thermal Systems. Grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity as on 31.10.2006 aggregated 9,013 MW corresponding to around 7 percent of the total power installed capacity which equates to over 2 percent of total electricity.
Worldwide photovoltaic installations increased by 1,460 MW in 2005, up from 1,086 MW installed during the previous year. That was a 67 percent increase over the 750 MW produced in 2003. In 2002 the world solar market increased 40 percent. Solar Energy demand has grown at about 25 percent per annum over the past 15 years. In 1985, worldwide annual solar installation demand was only 21 MW. According to the IEA’s factsheet, “Renewables in Global Energy Supply,” the solar energy sector has grown by 32 per annum since 1971. Worldwide, grid-connected solar PV continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 55 percent increase in cumulative installed capacity to 3.1 GW, up from 2.0 GW in 2004, as per “Renewable Global Status Update Report 2006″ (http://www.ren21.net). Similarly, India witnessed an acceleration of solar hot water installations in 2005. Global production of solar PV increased from 1,150 MW in 2004 to over 1,700 MW in 2005. Japan was the leader in cell production (830 MW), followed by Europe (470 MW), China (200 MW), and the US (150 MW).
|In the sun during the day, providing lighting at night,
a photovoltaic/battery lantern illuminates the home
India: Status of Solar Energy:
The solar PV program was begun in the mid 70′s in India. While the world has progressed substantially in production of basic silicon mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells, India has fallen short to achieve the worldwide momentum. In early 2000, nine Indian companies were manufacturing solar cells. During 1997-98 it was estimated that about 8.2 MW capacity solar cells were produced in the country. The total installed manufacturing capacity was estimated to be 19 MW per year. The major players in Solar PV are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) (http://www.bhel.com/bhel/home.php); Central Electrtonics Ltd., and Rajasthan Electricals & Instruments Ltd., as well as by several companies in the private sector. The latest, 100 million dollars investment from Tata BP Solar in India is the pointer towards the booming solar market in India. Of late, the market is growing for SPV applications based products with the active encouragement of the government.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (www.mnes.nic.in), earlier known as the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources – have initiated innovative schemes to accelerate utilisation and exploitation of the solar energy. Number of incentives like subsidy, soft loan, 80 percent accelerated depreciation, confessional duty on import of raw materials and certain products, excise duty exemption on certain devices/systems etc. are being provided for the production and use of solar energy systems. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) – http://mnes.nic.in/annualreport/2004_2005_English/ch12_pg1.htm – a Public Limited Company established in 1987- provides revolving fund to financing and leasing companies offering affordable credit for the purchase of PV systems. As a result, the Renewable Energy Sector is increasingly assuming a greater role in providing grid power to the Nation as its total capacities reached about 9,013 MW. This apart, the Electricity Act 2003, National Electricity Policy 2005 and National Tariff Policy 2006 provide a common framework for the regulation of renewable power in all States/UTs through quotas, preferential tariffs, and guidelines for pricing ‘non-firm’ power.
However, in the Draft New and Renewable Energy Policy Statement 2005, which is yet be approved, the federal government is very cautious about the status of renewable energy in the future. It says, “despite the fact that the biomass-solar- hydrogen economy is some decades away, it should not make industry and the scientific & technical community of the country unduly complacent into believing that necessary steps for expected changes can wait.”
Present Scenario of Solar Power:
The MNES has been implementing installation of solar PV water pumping systems for irrigation and drinking water applications through subsidy since 1993-94. Typically, a 1,800 Wp PV array capacity solar PV water pumping system, which cost about Rs. 3.65 lakh, is being used for irrigation purposes. The Ministry is providing a subsidy of Rs.30 per watt of PV array capacity used, subject to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 per system. The majority of the pumps fitted with a 200 watt to 3,000 watt motor are powered with 1,800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 liters of water/day from a total head of 10 meters. By 30th September, 2006, a total of 7,068 solar PV water pumping systems have been installed.
A total of 32 grid interactive solar PV power plants have been installed in the country with financial assistance from the Federal Government. These plants, with aggregate capacity of 2.1 MW, are estimated to generate about 2.52 million units of electricity in a year. In 1995, an aggregate area of 4 lakh square meters of solar collectors were installed in the country for thermal applications such as water heating, drying cooking etc. The thermal energy generated from these devices was assessed at over 250 million kwh per year. In addition, solar PV systems with an aggregate capacity of 12 MW were installed for applications such as lighting, water pumping, communications, etc. These systems are capable of generating 18 million kwh of electricity per year. In 2003 alone, India added 2.5 MW of solar PVs. For rural electrification as well as employment and income generation, about 16,530 solar photovoltaic lighting systems were installed during 2004-05. Over 150,000 square meters of collector area has been installed in the country for solar water heating in domestic, industrial and commercial sectors making the cumulative installed collector area over one million square meters. State-wise details of cumulative achievements under various non-conventional energy programmes, as on 31.03.2006 are shown in the table below:
|MINISTRY OF NON-CONVENTIONAL ENERGY
FUNDED PHOTOVOLTAIC OUTPUT BY STATE
|Government-funded solar energy in India only accounted for
approximately 6.4 megawatt-years of power as of 2005
Similarly, India’s Integrated Rural Energy Program using renewable energy had served 300 districts and 2,200 villages by early 2006. More than 250 remote villages in seven states were electrified under the program during 2005, with additional projects under implementation in over 800 villages and 700 hamlets in 13 states and federal territories (see table below). Rural applications of solar PV had increased to 340,000 home lighting systems, 540,000 solar lanterns, and 600,000 solar cookers in use.
|INDIA’S INTEGRATED RURAL ENERGY PROGRAM
REMOTE VILLAGES SELECTED FOR SOLAR ELECTRIFICATION
|By 2006 over 2,400 off-grid villages in India had
received solar thermal and photovoltaic systems
An Expert Committee constituted by the Planning Commission has prepared an Integrated Energy Policy that aims at achieving integrated development and deployment of different energy supply sources, including new & renewable energy. The grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity is expected to reach 10,000 MW as on corresponding to a share of over 2 per cent in the electricity-mix, by 31.3.2007. Further capacity addition of 14,000 MW is envisaged during the 11th Plan (2007-12) leading to a then share of around 5 per cent in the electricity-mix but mostly through hydro-power. A 10 million square meter solar collector area capable of conserving electricity equivalent to that generated from a 500 MW power plant is expected to be set up by 2022. India has recently proposed to augment cooking, lighting, and motive power with renewable in 600,000 villages by 2032, starting with 10,000 remote off-grid villages by 2012.
A four-year $7.6 million effort was launched in April 2003 to help accelerate the market for financing solar home systems in southern India. The project is a partnership between UNEP Energy Branch, UNEP Risoe Centre (URC), (http://uneprisoe.org/) two of India’s major banking groups – Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, and their sponsored Grameen Banks. As per the existing policy, Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 percent is permitted in non-conventional energy sector through the automatic route. The FDI received in non-conventional energy sector from January 2003 to September 2006 is estimated at around Rs.35 crore. The Multilateral Development Banks like World Bank and Asian Development Bank are also helping India to achieve its potential on renewable resources. But, the funding from MDBs on solar energy enhancement is negligible compare to other clean energy support in India.
|A 200 litre per day solar water heating system
installed in Karnataka by IREDA
Challenges and Constraints:
Solar energy is facing three fundamental challenges of cost, its manufacturing procedure as well as its waste products that have any impact on the environment and the land acquisition for erecting solar PVs.
The hunt for better, cheaper solar cells is due in India. Solar PV now cost one tenth of what they did in early 1980s. Despite the fact that the price of solar photovoltaic technology has been coming down over the years it still remains economically unviable for power generation purposes. During 1999, the cost of solar cells being manufactured in the country was estimated to be in the range of Rs. 1.35 to 1.50 lakhs per kW. The average cost of solar PV modules was around Rs. 2 lakhs per kW. At present the initial cost of both types of solar energy systems is higher compared to the cost of conventional energy systems and also the other non-conventional energy systems. However, the estimated unit cost of generation of electricity from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal route is in the range of Rs. 12 -20 per kWh and Rs. 10 – 15 per kWh respectively in India. With present level of technology, solar electricity produced through the photovoltaic conversion route is 4-5 times costlier than the electricity obtained from conventional fossil fuels.
There are number of R & D projects are going on solar PV Program in India. The Solar Energy Centre (http://mnes.nic.in/solarenergy1.htm) has been established by Government of India as a part of MNES to undertake activities related to design, development, testing, standardization, consultancy, training and information dissemination in the field of Solar Energy. Recently, development of polycrystalline silicon thin film solar cells and small area solar cells concluded at the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science at Jadavpur University. The National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi is working on development of materials and process to make dye sensitized nano-crystalline TiO2 thin films. The Centre for Materials for Electronics, Pune has been working on development of phosphorous paste for diffusion of impurities in solar cells. Under a joint R&D project of MNES and Department of Science & Technology (DST), the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata continued to work on optimization of process for fabrication of large area double junction amorphous silicon modules.
However, considering the fact that solar energy systems do not require any fuel, the running costs are lower. Therefore, the cost of some of the solar energy systems such as solar water heaters, solar cookers and solar lanterns can be lower than that of conventional energy products when calculated over the life of the systems. The other advantages of solar energy systems are modular nature, long-life, reliability, no recurring requirement of fuel, low maintenance and so on.
In the very near future, breakthroughs in nanotechnologies promise significant increase in solar cell efficiencies from current 15% values to over 50% levels. These would in turn reduce the cost of solar energy production. However, capital costs have substantially declined over the past two decades, with solar PV costs declining by a factor of two. PV is projected to continue its current rapid cost reductions for the next decades to compete with fossil fuel. However, the realisation of cost reductions is naturally closely linked to market development, government policies, and support for research and development.
In India, of late there has been a debate regarding whether hydro-power and solar power are green or renewable? Since solar power systems generate no air pollution during operation, the primary environmental, health, and safety issues involve how they are manufactured, installed, and ultimately disposed of. Also, an important question is how much fossil energy input is required for solar systems compared to the fossil energy consumed by comparable conventional energy systems. Another concern area is installing solar cells on the land area. The large amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants – approximately one square kilometer for every 20-60 megawatts (MW) generated – poses an additional problem in India. Instead, solar energy in particular requires unique, massive applications in the agricultural sector, where farmers need electricity exclusively in the daytime. This could be the primary demand driver for solar energy in India.
Even though energy from renewable energy sources is growing rapidly, with markets such as solar cells, wind and biodiesel experiencing annual double digit growth, the overall share is only expected to increase marginally over the coming decades as the demand for energy also grows rapidly, particularly in many developing countries. In India, the scientific focus is deliberately moving towards transforming coal into clean energy as well as harnessing hydropower. The recent surge in nuclear energy is also diverting focus from the solar energy enhancement. In all probability, the Indian government will support off-grid solar energy production through a decentralized manner. In spite of this, India needs to focus research on solar energy and cheaper photovoltaics to provide affordable energy to all.
Additional State Info on Solar Energy:
The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) (http://www.self.org/) founded the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) Photovoltaic Electrification Pvt. Ltd. The SELCO was established in 1995 to market, install, and service Solar Home Systems (SHS) in south India. The SELCO has achieved international recognition as the first company to concentrate on marketing and servicing SHS in the rural Indian market. The Company uses TATA-BP solar modules and deep-cycle batteries purchased on the Indian market, while manufacturing its own lights and charge controllers. Currently, its primary products are 22 and 35 watt SHS, and it will be introducing a 50 Wp system to customers shortly.
The Ministry had sanctioned a project to Non-conventional Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Ltd., Hyderabad for installation of 50 solar dryers to individual users in rural areas with a view to promote the technology and show its potential in income generation and leading to development of entrepreneurship. The dryers were developed by Society for Energy, Environment and Development (SEED), Hyderabad.
Since 1995, with the help of the US Department of Energy (http://www.eren.doe.gov/international.html) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (http://www.nrel.gov/), the Ramakrishna Mission, a non-governmental organization in West Bengal (http://www.sriramakrishna.org/) has installed more than 500 PV domestic lighting system and has established ‘Aditya’ – a solar shop in the mission campus in Narendrapur, which sells PV systems up to nearly 10 in each day. The systems are manufactured in India and the US. The technical staff of the Mission has expected to establish six more Aditya solar shops and more than 2000 additional domestic lighting system and seven-community systems in the West Bengal. Through 2005, 73 Aditya Solar Shops were established in India.
About the Author: Avilash Roul has been writing, advocating, researching, and creating knowledge on Environment and Development in various English Daily media since 2000. He has worked with Down To Earth (fortnightly magazine published in New Delhi, India) for the last three years. He has also contributed a Sunday column in New India Express on the environment and development. Right now Mr. Roul is working as an Assistant Coordinator for the Bank Information Center (www.bicusa.org), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank, regional development banks, and the International Monetary Fund.