Bharat Heavy Electricals (Bhel) has achieved a major landmark with the successful deployment of its Space Grade Solar Panels on the GSAT-8 satellite of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). Launched from French Guyana, the satellite is Isro’s heaviest, weighing about 3,100 kg at lift-off. India’s advanced communication satellite,
GSAT-8 is a high-power communication satellite being inducted in the Insat system. The four solar panels supplied by Bhel for GSAT-8 have an area of over 5 sq m each, totaling around 21 sq m, and comprise multi-junction solar cells in series and parallel combinations, with a total power capacity of 4.5 kW. The panels were manufactured to strict space-quality standards wherein cell welding, bonding and wiring work was carried out by highly skilled manpower. The panels were further subjected to detailed testing by Isro, such as vibration test and thermovac test, as part of the requirements to validate the mechanical, electrical and thermal performance. Bhel, in collaboration with Isro, has established a state-of-the-art 10,000 clean room facilities at its Electronics Systems Division in Bangalore for the assembly and testing of Space Grade Solar Panels using high efficiency solar cells.
During her day’s sojourn in India earlier this month on the invitation of the Indian Prime Minister Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, held inter-governmental consultations, quite unusually, at the cabinet level. Such cabinet-level discussions are held with very few countries. India is the first Asian country with which such discussions have been held. About half a dozen ministers accompanied her with the intentions of further expanding and intensifying economic cooperation between the two countries. Germany is the largest trading partner of India in the European Union.
India’s largest solar power project will be commissioned in a fortnight. Moser Baer’s 30-MW project in Patan in Gujarat is likely to be commissioned by the end of this month or in the following week. The twin solar projects at Patan of 15 MW each have entailed an investment of around R450 crore.
“The combined capacity of our projects in Patan makes it by far the largest solar project. Many projects with similar size and slightly larger ones are coming up, but they make take time,” KN Subramanium, CEO, Moser Baer Solar Systems .
“The Photovoltaic project using thin film technology is expected to give better yield. This requires 7-8 acres for generating one megawatt depending on technology of thin film and land profile available at a specific site,” he said. According to him, the Patan project will remain the largest in solar sector in the country at least till the end of this year.
Recently, major electricity distribution company Torrent Power Ltd, entered the solar sector and is building a 50 MW project in Gujarat.
GT Solar International, a U.S. solar and LED equipment maker, forecast its sapphire materials business will contribute about a tenth of its fiscal 2012 sales as orders for general lighting applications pick up.
Sapphire is the main base used in making LEDs, an industry that GT Solar CEO Tom Gutierrez expects will expand rapidly as incandescent and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are replaced by the cheaper and environment-friendly LED bulbs.
The Merrimack, New Hampshire-headquartered company, which makes sapphire material used in the LED, medical and aerospace industries, expects the business to contribute $70-$90 million to its fiscal 2012 sales of more than a billion dollars.
The sapphire material business is a part of the company’s Crystal Systems segment, which also sells furnaces to companies looking to make their own sapphires. The entire segment reported revenue of $15.3 million for the fiscal year ended on April 2.
Its sapphire business backlog then included new orders worth more than $184.2 million, of which just $10 million was related to sapphire material contracts, with the rest coming from the furnace and other equipment orders.
But Gutierrez expects the demand for energy-efficient LEDs — touted as the future of the lighting industry — to grow despite the high investments required which have made its mass adoption slower than expected.
LED lights need to pay back hefty investments a lot quicker before they go mainstream, LED maker Cree’s CEO said at the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit on Monday.
GT Solar’s Gutierrez, however, said that as more capacity is brought on board, prices will fall, helping sales. He said the company’s customers, centered in South Korea and China, were not averse to operating in a low-margin, high-volume environment.
“Our Asian customers are looking to make 15-20 percent gross margins versus the much higher margins that other suppliers in the industry are making today, and so it will sort itself out,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s fast-growing sapphire business.
On Monday, GT Solar, which has won a string of contracts this year, substantially raised its April-June forecast due to higher revenue recognition in the quarter.
Shares of the company, which from August will be known as GT Advanced Technologies, rose 6 percent at $12.89 in morning trade on Nasdaq.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the organization behind standards such as WiFi, Wimax and hundreds of others, sees Solar energy as becoming the cheapest power source in ten years.
The organization, which is increasing its focus on Solar this year through the setting up of a journal and experts groups, is one of the few international bodies to throw its weight behind a single source of energy and hold it up as the definite candidate to bet on. Most other experts and bodies tend to see a combination of sources, such as Wind, geothermal and nuclear as the solution to getting out of the hydrocarbon problem.
The IEEE, after which many standards are named, is considered the world’s largest association of professionals — encompassing experts in nearly all fields from electronics to aviation.
The forecast, if it comes true, will also pose a challenge to countries such as Saudi Arabia which derive a lot of its income from its deposits of fossil fuel. Many such countries actively limit their production so that that the reserves last for 20-40 years more. If Solar is sure to become cheaper than fossil fuels, such countries would be better of producing as much as possible when there is still demand for such products.
IEEE says Solar has the potential to more than meet the entire energy requirement of the planet.
“The rate of energy from sunlight hitting the earth is of the order of 100,000 terawatts. Just a fraction is needed to meet the power needs of the entire globe, as it takes approximately 15 terawatts to power the earth,” it pointed out. “No other alternative source has the same potential,” says James Prendergast IEEE’s Executive Director
Currently, power produced from solar photovoltaic plants costs around 4 US cents (Rs 18) per unit, while coal powered plants produce a unit of power at around Rs 3 or 4, without including cost of pollution. Many governments, such as India’s, provide purchase guarantees for solar powered electricity production. India, for example, is offering around Rs 17 per unit of such electricity, under its massive Solar Mission.
However, global solar PV production is still minuscule — around 20-30 Gigawatt per year, not enough to even meet the incremental power demand for a country like India. India has a total of around 155 GW of capacity most of which is able to run 24-hours a day, compared to solar which runs effectively only for around 6 hours.
The production capacity, however, has been increasing at an average annual growth rate of more than 40 percent since 2000. At current trends, by 2050, it is expected that solar PV will provide 11 percent of global electricity production, corresponding to 3,000 gigawatts of cumulative installed capacity.
India is on track to produce 700 megawatts of solar power at a cost of $2.2 billion by December, ahead of an initial target for an ambitious plan that seeks to boost green power generation from near zero to 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2022.
Under India’s Solar Mission , investors bid to build solar power plants and the winning bids are determined by the electricity tariff that they accept as viable. Such has been the interest that the government has been flooded with investment pledges for the first batch of projects rolling out in December.
India’s 20 GW solar plan is likely to attract overall investment of about $70 billion, the government has estimates. Issued in 2009, the plan envisages India producing 1,300 megawatts (MW) by 2013, another up to 10 GW by 2017 and the rest by 2022.
“The entire solar industry is no longer worried about the upheavals that are taking place in the European markets because they find a very new and very promising market is developing in India,” said Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director of Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.
IREDA, a state-run agency, is the leader in the country’s solar energy financing.
“So far, every year the general mood was that nobody knew what would happen to the German policy or what would happen to Spanish policy,” said Majumdar, who attended a global summit on clean technologies in Munich last week.
Germany , the world’s top solar power producer with about 17 GW installed by end-2010, is considering cutting incentives for photovoltaic energy by an additional six percentage points in another step on March 1, 2012.
Germany, Spain , Italy, Japan and the United States are the leading producers of solar power in the world. While India’s solar sector remains a risky venture because of a shortage of data and trained manpower, such deficiencies also open up a huge market for expertise and technology such as Colorado-based Juwi Solar, Schneider , Schott Solar.
“The (Solar Mission’s) second phase would create a very large market for service providers, especially EPC contractors and people who can analyse data to ascertain how much resources like sunlight are available and how much (solar energy) is going to be produced,” Majumdar said.
“These agencies would get lots of business,” he told the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit in New Delhi, adding it was still not possible to determine the size of such a market.
EPC contractors handle the engineering, procurement and construction of solar power plants.
If everything goes to plan, and the rollout of the first projects in December should be an indicator, solar would contribute the equivalent to one-eighth of India’s current installed power base by 2022.
NEW DELHI: In an effort to fast-track the National Solar Mission, the Government on Thursday approved a scheme which will help in availability of funds for carrying out projects under the mission.
The Union Cabinet cleared the Payment Security Scheme to enable financial closure of projects under the mission by extending Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) amounting to Rs 486 crore to the New and Renewable Energy Ministry (MNRE), an official spokesperson said here.
The scheme will help MNRE in the event of defaults in payment by the state utilities to NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), the Central Agency which will purchase solar power from the developers and sell it to the utilities bundled with unallocated thermal power available from NTPC utilities.
The Maharashtra government remains uncomfortable with the idea of harnessing solar power from residential rooftops even as Delhi is raring to go.
The Delhi government on June 5 announced that it would unveil a detailed plan in 3-4 months for harnessing solar power from residential rooftops, in partnership with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Under the proposed policy, residents can get solar power plants installed on their rooftops by signing a power purchase agreement with the company supplying power to their area. For a rooftop of around 200 square metres, the cost is estimated to be Rs8-9 lakh. Residents can either lease out their roofs to a developer, who will then set up the unit, or pay 30% of the cost of installation. The remaining 70% will be financed through banks. The price payable per unit of such power will be Rs17.50, which the owner of the rooftop can sell to any power supply company. Details on the manner in which connectivity will take place are not yet available.
So what explains Maharashtra’s hesitation?
Part of it has to do with the reimbursement limit set under the otherwise-laudable Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The Mission requires the states to generate 0.25% of the power purchased by them to come from solar power by 2012. The price fixed by the Mission is Rs17.90 per kWh, which is slated to come down to Rs15 per kWh next year. This is the price reimbursed to the states under the JNNSM —- anything over the 0.25% limit will not be reimbursed.
Somewhat expectedly, Maharashtra identified degraded government-owned land, lying idle around places like Dhule and Osmanabad, and got them transferred to its power generation company. It then floated a reverse bidding tender and aggressively brought down the purchase of solar price to under Rs14 per kWh and identified two players — Lanco Solar and Megaprojects — who would collectively supply the state 125 mw of solar power.
“We now have a problem,” said Ajoy Mehta, managing director of Mahavitaran (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd). We would like to generate more solar power, but with the sanctioning of this 125 mw capacity, we have more than met the requirement of 0.25% of our total power purchase through the solar route. This is the power for which we are reimbursed Rs17.90 per kWh costs by the JNNSM (the difference between Rs14 per kWh and Rs17.90 will be kept aside to subsidise additional power generation).
If we now announce a rooftop solar policy today, who will pay for the additional high cost solar power?”
This is because the basket cost for Maharashtra’ power purchase is around Rs2.93/kWh, though the system marginal cost is a lot higher at Rs4.10. Solar power, Mehta believes, is unlikely to cost less than Rs13 per unit, which means the additional power costs will have to be pooled in the basket, pushing up its costs further. Since the JNNSM has added an incentive tariff of Re1 per unit for rooftop solar, the cost of purchase will go up further.
“Already, thanks to cross subsidisation of cheap power to agriculture and marginal users, commercial users are paying a price of around Rs9 a unit. Purchasing more solar power that cannot be subsidised by the Centre will require us to load commercial tariffs even beyond this unbearable level,” said another government official.
But couldn’t there be another way out? After all, the central government has mandated that all states increase solar power purchase from 0.25 to 0.5% of total power purchased by 2013. Shouldn’t the states then plan their future procurement in a way that all solar power is via rooftops?
This is precise what Germany did when it decided to popularise solar power. In ten years, it has seen solar power production swell to over 17,000 mw and counting.
To its credit, the rooftop route encourages every resident to participate in solar power production. Power generation is thus distributed, rather than a privilege enjoyed by a few producers.
By announcing a fixed purchase tariff, which would be constant for say 25 years, and by allowing agents to set up rooftop panels on the one hand, and act as power aggregators on the other, Germany saw most agents introducing innovations to bring down their cost of production and increase profits.
Increased volumes caused the solar panel costs to crash from $5 a watt to just around $1 a watt a month ago. And they continue to fall at least 10-20% a year, says a senior official at Wipro, which has just embarked on promoting solar power installations.
Maharashtra government officials are uncomfortable about this strategy.
“What if we announce a solar rooftop policy and the total offerings through this route go beyond 300-500 mw (which could be the case)? Who will bear the higher cost of solar power procurement?” asked an official.
But one area where the state is willing to look at solar power quite aggressively is rural communities where the cost of supplying power is very high, subsidies even higher, and collections quite poor.
For instance, the average cost of electricity supply comes to around Rs4.34 a unit, whereas it is supplied to agriculture at Rs1.50 a unit. Even so, the farmer pays just around 20 paise, while the remaining Rs1.30 is subsidised by the state government.
Thus, the total agriculture subsidy on account of power is in excess of Rs5,000 crore annually. More unfortunately, even at 20 paise per unit, only 20-30% of the farmers pay their bills, leaving some Rs500 crore uncollected.
That is why Maharashtra is looking quite favourably at providing a subsidy to solar powered pumps (manufactured primarily by Kirloskar) so that this subsidy can be reduced.
Another way could be to identify small villages where the cost of transmission causes the cost of supplying power to exceed Rs14 per unit. There, rooftop solar power could be extremely attractive and viable, reducing the pressure (and cost) on transmission grids and the temptation to steal power.
But will Maharashtra bite the bullet and announce such a policy? That remains to be seen.
“We think there’s a tremendous opportunity” to engineer, build and operate plants for project developers, Pramoda Karkal, managing director at Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company’s Indian unit, said in an interview in Mumbai.
India has awarded licenses to build at least 1,100 megawatts of solar capacity by next January, roughly equivalent to one new nuclear power plant and about 30 times what exists today. Companies are racing to line up financing and contractors for projects to meet their deadlines.
Within 20 years, India’s solar sector could create a $50 billion market and rival China’s, Karkal estimated.
“There are thousands and thousands of remote villages in India without a connection to the electricity grid,” he said. “Rather than laying miles of copper lines, it’s cheaper to build a solar plant. That’s why solar will take off quickly here.”
Johnson Controls had global sales of $12.8 billion last year installing equipment and controls for air-conditioning, heating, refrigeration and other processes that allow buildings to reduce energy consumption. The systems it has installed since 2000 have saved $7.5 billion in operating costs, the company estimates.
India is trying to pass legislation that would restrict the energy consumed by commercial buildings. If successful, that could create a $500 million market within five years for services in Asia’s third-largest energy consumer, Karkal said.
With the Indian economy growing by leaps and bounds yet hampered by regular power shortages and blackouts, Indian electricity regulators are in a tough spot. How to wring more electricity from very limited infrastructure? The answer lies in energy efficiency. Through collaborations with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, India is hoping to learn from California’s successes in implementing energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet energy demand.
The past week (June 10, 2011) a delegation of 20 electricity regulators from 16 Indian states visited Berkeley Lab for a study tour that included visits to Sacramento to hear from the grid operator and a utility and to Bakersfield to tour a solar power facility. The trip also featured presentations by the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, which, along with Berkeley Lab, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India’s Forum of Regulators in 2009 to consult on best practices in utility-based energy-efficiency programs.
This is the second year that Indian electricity regulators have visited California under the MOU, and much progress has been made in the last year, said Berkeley Lab senior scientist Jayant Sathaye, one of the main organizers of the visit. “The public utility company of the state of Maharashtra has set up a demand-side management coordinating committee and started pilot programs for fans and lighting,” he said.
Another step forward has been the launch of the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative, championed by the U.S. Department of Energy and launched by the Clean Energy Ministerial to expand global markets for efficient products in member countries. “India is an active member, probably the most active,” Sathaye said. “The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is running the program in many states and is starting with electric fans. Berkeley Lab is doing all the analysis.”
The program will eventually include TVs, refrigerators, and other household appliances, which are becoming increasingly popular with Indian consumers as more and more enter the middle class. Berkeley Lab researcher Amol Phadke presented analysis to the delegation showing the potential energy savings from higher penetration of super efficient appliances. “We feel 70% of infrastructure that will exist in 2030 has not yet been purchased,” he said. “So let’s not correct mistakes. Let’s avoid mistakes.”
As in the United States, state authorities in India have regulatory power, yet awareness of energy efficiency is still relatively low. “We’ve learned a lot of things here,” said delegation member Ram Pal of the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission. “The realities in India are different from here, so it won’’t be that easy to implement these programs, but we want to try to realize the savings. We have big shortages in my state.”
Berkeley Lab’s ongoing work in India was formalized in 2008 with the launch of the Berkeley-India Joint Leadership on Energy and the Environment, or BIJLEE (which means “power” in Hindi), a collaboration that also includes UC Berkeley.
Berkeley Lab is also working with India to improve the energy efficiency of its data centers and buildings, two of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy. Researchers collaborate with developers and IT companies such as Tata and Infosys who account for much of the growth in India’s special economic zones.
“They’re building buildings like crazy in India,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Girish Ghatikar. “Infosys designs a new building every 20 days. It’s very important that we guide them to grow sustainably. India needs at least 66% more buildings to be able to support the growth it’s experiencing. If they’re not growing sustainably, energy supply will become a very critical issue.”