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energetica-india-54

RENEWABLE ENERGY 51 in ‘Dark India’ is therefore, a better option than building multi megawatt monsters, even though politicians fancy big numbers and such photo opportunities. Why Micro Grid should be our priority? There are many reasons why India should not focus or financially subsidise Multi-megawatt Solar Farms. It is simple enough to understand why this promotion is unwise. Let me give you convincing reasons why we should do it, if at all, on a selective basis. Primarily, 30% of the solar energy injected into the Grid is lost! These big plants, spread over several acres of land, feed the clean stable generated solar energy into the Power Grid. 30% of this expensive solar energy that government buys with the taxpayers money is lost in T&D losses of the Power Grid! Secondly, these plants are built by large corporations and are often bought, directly or indirectly, from foreign vendors. Thus the country ends up in subsidising the big companies that do nothing to improve the quality and the reliability of the Grid Power. Land scams associated with this have also made headlines. Interestingly, do the Grid power users benefit from this addition? No, they don’t! Today, we add about 3 Gigawatts of solar power into the grid that has, at any given moment, about 200GW of power flowing. Adding another 1.5% is akin to pouring a bucket of water in a big lake. This addition gives no relief to the consumers, and the blackouts as well as the wild voltage fluctuations continue unabated. As a professional, I can understand the feasibility of multimegawatt Solar Farms if our Grid was efficient and the losses were as low as in Europe. Cost of PV Solar Energy Socio-economic benefits to the people living in Dark India by energetica INDIA · NOV | DEC15 putting solar lights into their home are enormous. Any cost of solar power is justified and the returns are huge. But otherwise too, over the years, the cost per unit of PV Solar Power has reduced rapidly, making it more affordable, thanks to China. It is, however, strange that a sunstarved country like Germany first harvested solar energy on such a vast scale that today it powers the entire nation on weekends purely through solar energy! Even greater is the fact that they did it when the kilowatt hour cost of solar energy was over four times of what it is today. In India, the sun is more generous and shines brightly for long hours. So we should exploit it even more enthusiastically, but in a planned manner for optimal gains. PV Solar experts are indeed aware of the limitations of solar energy today. Often, we say that solar energy is free. The reality, of course, is that despite the rhetoric, except for the sun, there is nothing free about solar energy. Primarily, even though solar energy source is free, there is a rather high capital cost involved in generating electrical power from the sun. The second limitation of solar energy is its availability subject to daylight hours. This calls for storage of the DC energy harvested from the sun for use during nonsunny hours. Today, the focus of global research is on making efficient, long lasting and biodegradable batteries. LiFePO4 and similar chemistries have set today’s standard. These are widely used in electric vehicles as well as in industrial and military applications. Priority one: Lighting up ‘Dark India’ As elaborated above, the most appropriate priority for an urgent use of solar energy should be to power the houses of all those unfortunate communities in the hinterland, which do not have access to electrical power because we could not deliver grid power to them since 1947. Priority Two: Use of Micro- Grids providing electricity to a community A small town or a village can have its own PV Solar Micro-Grid by using Grid Power as backup. Governments should encourage the creation of Small Scale Solar Power companies in SME sector owning 50 to 500kW PV Solar Power Plants. Wherever possible, they can augment their energy resources using other nonconventional energy resources like biogas etc. Such enterprises would create local jobs and also maintain their plants carefully since good maintenance would maximise their revenue. They could use Grid Power, if available, as backup. Productive work is done during sunny hours, so local industry, shops and commercial establishments would get break-free, high quality, stable solar power with a grid backup, if present. At night, homes would get energy from home invertors since batteries would get charged during the day from solar power! This would allow the grid power, thus saved, to be used elsewhere. Priority three: Rural Population with water irrigation and drinking water supply: Following closely behind would be the use of solar energy in villages for powering submersible water pumps as well as powering drinking water processing plants. This would have a direct impact on the health of the rural community, since majority of the reasons for sickness in India is attributed to poor quality and contamination of drinking water. This program for providing solar powered irrigation pumps is already in place in some states. What we need to push for is solar powered clean drinking water using pumps and reverse osmosis water treatment. Millions of rural lives can be saved besides boosting the productivity by keeping the working population healthy. Priority four: Reliable Power to the victims of power breakdowns Almost 90% of households in India suffer from long unpredictable blackouts as well as wild voltage fluctuations. A large number of them use home inverters and batteries. It solves their problem, but in the process, they consume almost 100% more units of electricity if we take into account the inefficiency of inverters and batteries. Home inverters are ideal installations wherein solar energy obtained by installing PV panels on roof-tops, rather than line power, is used to charge batteries. With little bit of skill one can easily convert crores of home inverters by charging their batteries using the solar energy, line power working only as a backup. Priority five: Solar Power for Industrial and Commercial Establishments during the day Next on the list is the use of solar energy to power industrial and commercial establishments during the sunny hours. Currently, the cost of grid power during these hours is over Rs.15 per unit. This is the most opportune use since the PV solar energy would be directly used as and when generated during sunny working hours, thereby eliminating the need to store it! For such direct use, the cost of solar energy is less than half of that of Grid power. At least rural and semi-urban


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