Go Powerfully Solar!
How Solar Energy can meet the Energy Requirements of the Apparel Industry
Uninterrupted power is vital for the smooth running of the manufacturing sector. It also constitutes a major cost factor in the production process. Given its importance, most factories and industrial houses simply accept the high cost of getting uninterrupted power. One area for alternate source of energy or power which is gaining in popularity today is ‘Solar Power.’
The Sun has been the traditional source of energy and has been worshipped across civilizations, over centuries. Today, solar power is the buzzword as it is available in abundance, it is renewable and, of course, it is an inexpensive source of power as opposed to the more expensive conventional sources of power.
In India, with the recent thrust by the Government, solar power is gaining popularity. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), which is spearheading the solar power revolution in India, has set an ambitious target of achieving 22,000 MW of Grid connected power using solar energy, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Today, nearly 4,000 MW of power is being generated using solar power.
Solar power is harnessed using either the Solar Thermal System or the Solar Photovoltaic panels.
SOLAR PV SYSTEM OR PANEL CAN BE IMPLEMENTED OR INSTALLED ANYWHERE AND IS USED IN THE HARVEST OF SOLAR ENERGY FROM ROOFTOPS. PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS WERE, AT ONE TIME, VERY EXPENSIVE BUT IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, THEIR COST HAS COME DOWN.
Solar Thermal System Solar thermal system, in layperson’s terms, is the concept of heating water using the Sun’s rays. The heat thus generated, is used for cooling or to generate electricity using the heat engine. Solar energy is used to generate thermal energy or heat which, then, can be used in various ways. It is broadly classified into low, medium and high temperatures. Different methods/ equipments are used to harness this temperature. These could be dishes, flat plates, mirrors or lenses. The temperature at which the solar energy is harnessed determines the use it will be put to or the applications it can be used for. Low temperatures are ideal for homes, whereas high temperatures are workable for industrial units.
Solar Photovoltaic System or PV System In this case, photovoltaic cells also called solar cells fitted in panels, convert solar energy into electricity. The conversion is directly dependent on the Sun. A system for storage of this electricity produced in batteries to be used after the Sun sets is also possible.
Solar PV system or panel can be implemented or installed anywhere. It is used in the harvest of solar energy from rooftops. Photovoltaic panels were, at one time, very expensive but in the last few years, their cost has rapidly come down. The capacity or size of the plant depends on the demand and the load for energy. The system can be used to generate as low as 1 Watt energy to 1 Megawatt power. In industries, solar power can be used, but given the demand for continuous power, it is better to integrate it with the grid or back-up power to have continuous supply. The solar power is intermittent, depending on the weather. The cost benefit actually depends on the energy costs paid by the industry. If the plant runs on DG sets, then the cost is very high and solar would prove to be beneficial. The initial investment in case of a PV panel is high
but it requires little maintenance. The estimated investment as per the benchmark set by the MNRE is R90 per watt peak, though insiders say, it can, at the ground level, work out to as low as
R70 per watt peak. The quantum of investment will depend on the size of the system. A solar PV system with a battery power to store surplus works. Alternatively, it can be sold to the Grids as many states are buying solar power generated in this fashion; in which case, there is no need to have battery power to store surplus. With the mission, there is greater awareness about solar power and even households are interested in its generation.
The life cycle of a PV module is 20–25 years. The payback time of investment in a PV panel is roughly five to six years; this is when conventional sources of energy are used. When Diesel is used for power generation, the payback time of the investment is just three to four years. The costs have come down rapidly, from R130 per watt peak in the last few years.
Grid Synchronised System In this case, there is a connection to the grid to run the entire system on grid fed conventional electricity. At the same time, solar power is also available.
The entire unit can run on dual power. When there is sufficient solar power, the conventional energy from the grid is not drawn. On cloudy days or when adequate solar power is not generated, the unit can run on conventional electricity. Storing of excess solar power in batteries may not be required. In a grid synchronised system, the excess production of solar power can be sold to the State or the Electricity Company, if there is a State purchase policy to that effect.
Off Grid This is a standalone module where the entire energy requirement is met using solar power alone. There is no connectivity to the Grid. The problem here is that on cloudy days or when the sun is not bright, a back up for electricity requirement has to be taken care off. This is very convenient for running standalone systems like pumps, geysers, televisions, etc. Battery to store excess electricity is used to run the system when the sun isn’t present, and ensure continuous power.
The National Institute of Solar Energy One Institute where a host of technologies can be understood and seen under one roof is the Solar Energy Centre; it is also called the National Institute of Solar Energy. The campus at Gwal Pahari is an impressive one and I was explained the various nuances of solar power through PV panels and through the thermal system by Mr S K Singh, Director. The range of work being pioneered here, the range of testing and innovation, at present, is mind boggling. Several types of PV panels are being tested for efficiency viz-a-viz the cost.
The centre has a visitor programme and one can visit it to understand more about the technology available and how the same can be implemented in one’s own unit.
Latest Developments With the new Government coming into power, MNRE has been brought under one umbrella ministry called Energy. This covers power, coal and new and renewable energy. Alternate sources of energy will now become a part of the mainstream with the same impetus. Solar energy is expected to get a big boost as Gujarat has an excellent model for solar energy in place. The Solar Mission objectives are likely to be made more ambitious and target driven. The new Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal, is expected to be hands on in his approach to generation of solar power in the country.