The So­lar

With en­ergy needs on the rise, In­dia is fast emerg­ing as a leader in so­lar power gen­er­a­tion.

Southasia - - ALTERNATE ENERGY - By Asma Sid­diqui

In­dia is one of the most pop­u­lous coun­tries of the world. With a ris­ing pop­u­la­tion, the coun­try’s en­ergy de­mands have also ac­cen­tu­ated, pos­ing new chal­lenges for In­dia, to ful­fill the needs of its en­ergy starved ur­ban pop­u­la­tion. In­dia’s eco­nomic growth is ex­pected to over­take that of China within the next three years. In­dia’s English­s­peak­ing mid­dle class is in­creas­ing an­nu­ally with over 125 mil­lion English speak­ers and an ex­pected in­crease in the mid­dle class from 50 mil­lion to 583 mil­lion by 2025. This will sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact con­sumer de­mands for elec­tric­ity and is likely to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for for­eign in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and tech­nol­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent es­ti­mates, nearly 400 mil­lion peo­ple in In­dia do not have ac­cess to elec­tric­ity.

In­dia is the third largest elec­tric­ity con­sumer in Asia, af­ter the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China and Ja­pan, and de­mand has grown at an aver­age of 8% per year since 1995. How­ever, sup­ply falls well be­low de­mand, lead­ing to reg­u­lar black­outs and elec­tric­ity short­ages which are un­der­stat­ing the coun­try’s eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. More­over, much of the elec­tric­ity is gen­er­ated from in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain do­mes­tic sources of coal or from im­ported coal.

In­dia is a trop­i­cal coun­try where sun­shine is avail­able for longer hours per day and in great in­ten­sity. So­lar en­ergy, there­fore, has great po­ten­tial. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by the World-Watch In­sti­tute, In­dia is among the fastest grow­ing na­tions, af­ter China, Brazil and the U.S., in the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor with in­vest­ments ris­ing to 62 per cent - the high­est growth rate for any sin­gle coun­try over 2010. The so­lar power pro­gram, now a part of the National Ac­tion Plan for Cli­mate Change, be­gan as an off-grid clean en­ergy source to en­hance self-suf­fi­ciency and re­duce the con­sump­tion of kerosene, par­tic­u­larly in the ru­ral ar­eas.

While it was ini­tially pro­moted as a means to achieve en­ergy se­cu­rity, it now helps in mit­i­gat­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change. The Re­mote Vil­lage Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram (RVEP) be­gan in 2001 by the Min­istry of Non-Con­ven­tional En­ergy Sources (MNES), later re­named as the Min­istry of New and Re­new­able En­ergy (MNRE) in 2006.

In 2009, the In­dian Govern­ment al­lo­cated US$932 mil­lion to ex­pand its so­lar power in­fra­struc­ture through the Nehru National So­lar Mis­sion. The pro­gram is one of eight national strate­gies to ad­dress cli­mate change, and is a bid to se­cure the coun­try’s en­ergy sup­ply and con­trib­ute to its ‘eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity.’

Un­der the coun­try’s am­bi­tious so­lar pro­gram, the National So­lar Mis­sion (NSM), In­dia has jump­started its so­lar en­ergy in­dus­try, fos­ter­ing growth in both pho­to­voltaic (PV) projects and CSP, also known as so­lar ther­mal. Be­fore the Mis­sion be­gan, CSP projects only pro­vided 8.5 megawatts (MW) of en­ergy. In­dia’s large-scale CSP projects cur- rently pro­vide a pro­jected 500 MW of clean, re­li­able en­ergy un­der the NSM. Given the short time frame of the Mis­sion, th­ese num­bers are im­pres­sive, but In­dia has a long way to go in fos­ter­ing a sus­tain­able so­lar en­ergy mar­ket. CSP projects in­volve sys­tems of mir­rors that fo­cus a large area of sun­light onto a small area of con­tained liq­uid. The liq­uid af­ter heat­ing up, emits steam, and a tur­bine and elec­tri­cal power gen­er­a­tor con­verts that steam into elec­tric­ity. CSP would help In­dia meet its baseload en­ergy needs and could be called upon for sup­ple­men­tal elec­tric­ity dur­ing times of peak us­age.

As of June 2012, 31 per­cent of In­dia’s en­ergy came from re­new­able re­sources, in­clud­ing hy­dro­elec­tric power. In a 2009 sur­vey, McKin­sey & Com­pany rated In­dia as the top pro­ducer of so­lar en­ergy in the world, just above the U.S., with an an­nual yield of 1,700 to 1,900 kilo­watt hours per kilo­watt peak (kWh/ KWp). In ad­di­tion, In­dia has one of the world’s largest so­lar cook­ing venues in Tirupati, which pro­vides food for more than 15,000 peo­ple each day.

The In­dian Govern­ment’s Twelfth five-year plan start­ing from 2012-17 also tar­gets a ca­pac­ity grid con-

nected so­lar power ad­di­tion of 10 GW. Out this 10 GW tar­get, 4 GW would fall un­der the cen­tral scheme and the re­main­ing 6 GW un­der var­i­ous state spe­cific schemes. Dur­ing Phase-II, it is en­vis­aged that the de­vel­op­ment of Off-Grid elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion projects will cover around 20,000 vil­lages/ham­lets/ bas

ti/padas through the ‘En­ergy Ac­cess’ scheme. Ad­di­tion­ally, a De­ploy­ment Tar­get of 10 Lakh (1 Mil­lion) ex­ists for off-grid light­ing sys­tems. Phase II of JNNSM would fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of so­lar cities, which will lead to the in­clu­sion of more cities un­der the pro­ject.

There are plans to for­mu­late spe­cial schemes to pro­mote the use of so­lar tele­com tow­ers, which would tar­get around 25,000 so­lar in­te­grated tele­com tow­ers. Phase II would tar­get at-least 15-20 cities where so­lar wa­ter heaters would heat wa­ter to re­place elec­tric gey­sers. Con­sid­er­ing the progress of Phase I, it is an­tic­i­pated that Phase II would tar­get 8 mil­lion square me­tres of col­lec­tor area by the end of 2017. Asma Sid­diqui is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who writes on so­cial is­sues.

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