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Why’s Maharashtra shy of opening the rooftop sun tap?

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.

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Rajasthan Solar Energy Policy 2011

Rajasthan Solar Energy Policy, 2011 pdf

In order to promote generation of power from Solar Energy, the State Government hereby makes the Rajasthan Solar Energy Policy, 2011 as attached.

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Solar light project launched for remote Varanasi villages

Some Varanasi villages may soon shine under the bright solar lights.

An ambitious project ‘Jyotirgamaya’ launched by the Grand Lodge of India. It has established a solar power plant at Amrit Sagar Eco centre of Aghor Foundation in Ramnagar area.

The power plant was inaugurated on Thursday last. The system consists of PV solar modules, charger/controller, and storage batteries. The solar plant was established at the cost of Rs. 30 lakh.

Through this solar plant solar home lighting would be made available to the local houses, cremation ghat and other public places in the surrounding. The Amrit Sagar centre has been established without harming the nature. The centre has been promoting organic farming, use of organic manure, tree plantation, and environment awareness campaign.

In its 50th year of existence the Grand Lodge of India has taken up the project to provide long lasting source of light to people by providing light to remote villages that have no access to power from national grid.

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Lanco receives LoA for INR8.84 billion solar power project from Mahagenco

Lanco Solar, a subsidiary of Lanco Infratech Limited, in consortium with Juwi Renewable India Ltd, has received a letter of award, or LoA, from Maharashtra State Power GenerationCo Ltd, or Mahagenco, for building a 75MW Crystalline technology based photovoltaic, or PV, solar power project in Dhule district in Maharashtra. The project value is INR8.84 billion.

The project would be fully commissioned by mid February 2012.

Madhusudhan Rao, Chairman, Lanco Group, said, “India’s solar power generation capacity will reach 68,000 megawatts (MW) by 2021-22, triple the government’s target. To pursue the same, we at Lanco has given utmost importance to build on capacities on solar power generation which is also the need of the hour and aims to have 300 MW in generation next two years & in EPC aims to have 300-500 MW of solar thermal and solar PV plants over the next couple of years.

“What we are trying to create today is a small portion of the opportunity we have in the future and for the same Lanco Infratech has been developing a number of solar projects and has been at the forefront in its commitment to develop and promote renewable energy in India.”

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Innovation meets functionality at NIFT

NIFT Shillong Logo

Image via Wikipedia

What if your neck and back muscles got a massage while you worked on your PC? Or your office used daylight to power tube lights without using solar panels?
All these products and more designed by students of National Institute of Fashion Technology were presented at ‘Technova 11’, a platform where outgoing NIFT students present their graduation projects.

IT professionals suffer from repetitive strain injury, a disease that causes acute pain and sometimes numbness in their neck and back muscles. Our battery-powered jacket provides a massage to these areas,” say Ankesh Dev and Dinesh Kumar who have designed this product prototype, which may soon go commercial after they complete its tests.

Meanwhile, students Arpit Gupta and Jinal Shah have designed a product which can be used in multi-storied buildings and captures daylight without using solar panels. Gupta says, “Our product captures daylight and transfers it to the point of use in the form of a beam. This helps in reducing the average electricity consumption by 8% from the current 14%.”

Other innovations like automated machines to reduce labour costs, designed by students Satendra Burnwal and Surabhi Taneja, are already in use by quite a few readymade garments (RMG) firms.

Another product designed for the RMG industry, an ergonomic chair by Siddharth Singh Negi and Sharad Agarwal, is also likely to be a blessing in disguise for sewing operators of the industry.
“Currently, these operators make use of stools with no backrest or provision to adjust height. Our product can be adjusted with respect to the height of a person, when seated, in the range of 33-43 cms.

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solar power potential mapped OF iNDIA

The Energy and Wetland Research Group (EWRG), Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have jointly mapped the solar hotspots of the country.
Investment in solar power generation will now be less risky and eco-friendly as scientists from IISc have come out with priority regions to deploy solar energy devices across the country.

“By mapping the solar hotspots, we hope to facilitate commercial exploitation of energy with favourable techno-economic prospects and organisational infrastructure support to augment solar power generation in the country,” said Dr T V Ramachandra, senior scientist, EWRG, CES, IISc.

The detailed, three-month-long study provides access to solar potentiality by documenting the solar insolation, the much required parameter to generate solar energy. Trans-gangetic and Gujarat plains are among regions deemed to hold high potential.

The solar hotspots, found based on the exploitable potential using high resolution global isolation data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has found that the country’s favourable geographical location has made it one of the best locations for solar energy. However, the nation suffers in installation of solar applications with just 66 megawatt peak (mwp). This includes 12.28 mwp grid-connected solar power and 2.92 mwp off-grid solar power plants (SPP).

Though the national solar mission (NSM) launched in January 2010 has boosted the solar power scenario in the country, investment has suffered due to lack of details on the energy potential.

The researchers had collected data for more than 900 grids covering the entire topography of India and found that the nation has a vast potential for solar power generation – about 58 per cent of total land area (1.89 million km sq). “It receives an annual average global insolation above 5 kWh per metre sq per day (m sq),” Ramachandra said.

The study, conducted along with two more researchers, Rishabh Jain and Gautham Krishnadas, has also documented the data of insolation for every month.

According to the monthwise data findings, during January, major parts of the southern peninsula receive insolation above 4.5 kWh per metre sq per day, while western coastal plains and ghats region receive 5.5 kWh per m sq and western Himalayas and North India receive the minimum of 2.5 kWh m sq.

During February, a major expanse of the Indian landscape receives above 5 kWh  per m sq, while states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern region receive an insolation in the range of 3-4 kWh  m per sq.

During April and May, more than 90 per cent of the country receives minimum insolation up to 5 kWh m sq  which rises up to 7.5 kWh m sq, while the eastern Himalayas receive 4.7 kWh m per sq.

During the monsoon, the global insolation drops drastically in the south (with the exception of Tamil Nadu) and north-eastern regions to about 3.9 kWh m sq and it continues until September.

“The country receives annual sunshine of 2,600- 3,200 hours. Direct insolation with a minimum threshold value of 1,800 kWh m sq per year or 5 kWh m sq per day is reccomended to achieve levelised electricity costs (LEC),” the report said.

CSP and barren land

Suggesting that the concentrated solar power (CSP) – the technology that use lenses or mirrors to concentrate a large area of sunlight – is best suited for arid and semi arid regions, Ramachandra said that the transgangetic, western dry, plateau and Gujarat plains were best suited for this purpose.

The study said 4.89 million ha of barren and uncultivable land is available in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Even a small fraction of this land can support 1,222 MW capacity.

Despite being densely populated several states have barren and dry land with great power generation potential. Rajasthan has the most barren land with 2,595 ha, followed by Gujarat with 2,295 ha and Andhra Pradesh (2,056 ha). Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have 1,718 ha, 1,351 ha and 788 ha respectively.

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Intersolar India 2011 Announced

Intersolar India 2011is scheduled to take place at the Bombay exhibition Centre 14-16 December 2011 with 250 exhibitors and 6000 visitors.

Since its establishment in 2009, the exhibition and conference have developed into the premier platform for the solar industry in India. Intersolar India, focuses on photovoltaics and solar thermal technology and has quickly established itself among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and service providers as a vital international industry meeting point.

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