Bring­ing so­lar power to homes

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - ESTATE - Nam­rata Kohli ht­es­tates@hin­dus­tan­ (Nam­rata Kohli tracks ev­ery­thing from House to Home, from real es­tate to in­te­ri­ors and cap­tur­ing key trends in prop­erty mar­kets in In­dia and glob­ally)

“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.

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