Go Pow­er­fully So­lar!

How So­lar En­ergy can meet the En­ergy Re­quire­ments of the Ap­parel In­dus­try

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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.

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