Bringing solar power to homes
“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy,” said the visionary scientist, Thomas Edison who invented the longlasting electric light bulb. Hewas betting big on the solar energy versus fossil fuels.
Today, there are several bright spots of solar energy in the world. Kochi airport is the first fully solar powered airport in the world. Queensland in Australia and Florida in the US are building fully solar powered cities, while NASA has been using solar-powered satellites since the 1960s.
The benefits of residential solar power are obvious: energy from the sun is endless; it provides clean energy with no greenhouse-gas emissions; and it can help save people money on their electric bills. The life of a solar plant is 25 years. It’s almost maintenance free as solar panel systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for 25-30 years. Moreover, a solar home is worth much more and studies show that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them.
The flipside is that solar panels only produce powerwhen the sun is shining. The amount of power a solar energy system can generate is dependent on sunlight. As a result, your solar panels will produce slightly less energy when the weather is cloudy, and no energy at night. Having active solar systems that uses arrays of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity, is an expensive technology and getting this into the mainstream residential market has been a challenge so far.
But there are incentives by the State under Delhi Solar Policy, 2016 (for 2016-2020). The incentives help save almost 15% of the total cost. According to a Delhi government spokesperson -”The Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) considers solar power to be the most viable form of green energy in Delhi. It has the potential of lowering the state’s expenditure on energy, strengthening its energy security, and reducing its reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels. To attain this potential, rapid capacity addition in solar power is needed. Hence, it is deemed necessary to have a Delhi Solar Energy Policy for the promotion of solar power plants.” There are Generation Based Incentives, exemption from the payment of Electricity Tax and Cess exemp- tion on conversion charges of house tax to commercial tax and transmission charges.”
So how does one get started?
In terms of equipment, a solar powered home primarily consists of solar panels, module mounting structures, and inverter. The components required for an end-to-end home solar power system involves equipment to generate solar power, convert power to alternating current, that can be used by home appliances, store excess electricity and ensure safety. One needs to install solar panels on the rooftop or terrace. Solar panels have special batteries photovoltaic (PV) cells which harness sunlight, transform it into energy, and then send that energy to an inverter, which convert sit into electricity to power the home. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity.
A house also needs to a have a shadow free rooftop or land area for installation of solar panels, says Sundeep Gupta, Managing Director, Jakson Group (a company that has done rooftop solar projects at Varanasi and Raipur airports, Rashtrapati Bhawan and solar powered DEMU train coaches for Indian Railways), “If the household wants to use solar powered generated during the day at night, then they also need to install batteries to store energy generated during the day for use at night.”
How much would it cost?
The capital expenditure for installing a 5 kw on-grid rooftop solar power plant in Delhi would be approximately Rs 2.5 lakhs factoring in government subsidies, says Gupta. According to Delhi based solar energy expert Avinash Tandon, “1 KWp will generate around 1300- 1350 units of electricity per annum in Delhi/ NCR. Subsidies vary from state to state and are generally available to educational/ charitable/non profit institutions. While the capital cost has come down considerably in the last few years, still a 20 KWp , will cost around Rs 14-15 lakhs while 100KWp will cost around Rs 5254 lakhs.”
Several incentives are available for rooftop solar PV plants through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which varies from state to state, says Anurag Garg, Vice President, Solar & Energy Storage, Solar Business, Schneider Electric, “A rooftop solar PV system costs varies with the rooftop solar system capacity, and based on this it can vary from Rs 60- 80 per watt approximately, including installation charges but without batteries and without considering incentives.”
Is this possible for flats/apartments in cities?
Yes. Currently, there are two ways through which an individual can install a rooftop solar system. One is the capital expenditure model where an individual needs to make an upfront payment. Secondly, for those unwilling or unable to put up the money or where rooftop space is limited, there is the Renewable Energy Servicing Company (RESCO) model in which a terrace owner or group of owners allow a solar developer to install a plant at a common place.
The life of a solar plant is 25 years.