Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Solar energy can light up India's villages!

'Solar energy can light up India's villages'
21 Jan 2009, 0000 hrs IST
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Stuart Irvine, director, Centre for Solar Energy Research, North Wales, tells Narayani Ganesh that efficient and affordable third generation solar
technology could help reduce our dependence on polluting fuels:

What is third generation solar technology?

The I-Gen cells were of crystalline silicon, fairly high-cost, manufactured in relatively small volumes. The II-Gen cells had higher efficiency, whether made of thin wafers or silicon. The III-Gen has more complex, integrated devices that can reduce reflection and capture more of the solar spectrum by using one or a combination of optical methods. They have a wide range.

What is the cost component of solar energy?

Cost components are photovoltaic (PV) modules, power electronics and installation. One-half of the total cost you pay would be the module cost. The rest is spread over the balance of the system including cabling and connectivity. As with any renewable energy option, solar power is not the cheapest of options; as production increases, however, the costs tend to decrease. The biggest adopter of PV solar energy is Germany. They have an established feed-in tariff system for a number of years now and it costs less because of economies of scale. India's ministry of renewable energy is introducing a similar scheme to provide electricity grid connection to solar energy suppliers. You need to have a mix of renewable energy resources so that you don't depend on any one source of electricity.

Are large land areas required to install PV modules?

It depends on the location. In Europe, PV modules are fixed on south-facing roofs. The UK Centre for Solar Energy Research has a facade of 1,000 square metres. Germany has installed solar panels on roofs of industrial buildings measuring up to 10,000 sq metre each. China and India are now becoming manufacturing centres. A company in Kolkata, for instance, is working on an innovative technique to make PV modules with thin film made with cheaper, compound material to increase conversion efficiency. A UK-based company is to soon market a new type of portable plastic solar cell as low-cost mobile phone charger.

How can solar energy be stored?

There are two kinds of storage as far as solar energy is concerned: on-grid and off-grid. In the UK, it's largely the on-grid that's important. The DC electricity produced by PV modules are converted to AC in the grid. There's two-way energy traffic. The building will supply electricity to the grid during the day and buy from it in the night. This is called feed-in tariff system. In India, there are different variations of the scheme. If you have large tracts of unproductive land that gets sunlight, it's attractive from a seller's viewpoint because you can feed energy to the grid and get paid for that without having to buy back.

Off-grid needs battery storage. This is important in India where you have the rural electrification scheme; solar energy can light up India's villages. Solar energy would charge batteries that are then used to power lighting, television sets and refrigerators. Solar energy-charged batteries would be for high-efficiency lighting purposes and for other low-power domestic requirements.

Gopinath S
+91 99161 29728


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