Solar Power: Solution to India’s Power Woes

Solar Panel, Alternative  Energy

Solar power refers to the conversion of sunlight into electricity. This can be done in two ways: directly using PV (photovoltaics), or indirectly with the help of concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar power systems use mirrors or lenses and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. PVs use the photovoltaic effect to convert light into electric current.

Initially, photovoltaics was solely used as a source of electricity for small to medium-sized applications, from calculators that use a single solar cell to remote homes powered by a rooftop PV system. Solar PV is rapidly becoming a low-carbon, inexpensive technology that is used to harness energy from the sun.

Punjab installed the world’s single largest rooftop solar panel at Beas, giving the country’s solar mission a much-needed push. Solar panels generating clean energy have been touted as the answer to India’s energy problems by many experts. One of the Prime Minister’s pet projects is rural electrification. But one of the things that has served to be a deterrent is India’s massive energy costs. Millions of people still have no access to electricity, which is one of the reasons solar power is being considered as a long-term, viable source of clean energy.

Solar power in India has turned into a fast-developing industry. The Indian government significantly expanded its solar plans, targeting 100 GW of solar capacity. Large scale solar power deployment saw its advent only in 2010. Yet India’s ambitious targets would see it installing more than double that was achieved by world leaders in solar technology – China and Germany.

Hybrid Solar Plants

In India, solar power is often built to be complementary to the wind power as it is mostly generated in the non-monsoon period, during daytime. Solar power plants can be located in the inter-space between the towers of wind power plants or in nearby areas with a common power evacuation facility. It is also complementary to hydroelectricity, which is generated mainly during the monsoon months in India. They can be installed close to the existing hydropower and storage hydroelectricity plants with the added advantage of utilising the existing power evacuation infrastructure and store the extra secondary power generated by the solar power plants.

Challenges and Opportunities

In India, land is a scarce resource and per capita availability of land is low. The land area dedicated for the exclusive installation of solar arrays must often compete with the other factors that require land. Hence, the amount of land needed for utility-scale solar power plants may cause a strain on the available land resources.

One of the alternatives is to use the water surface area available in the form of lakes, reservoirs, canals and the sea, to locate large-capacity solar power plants. In addition, these water bodies can provide the water needed for periodic cleaning of the solar panels. Utilising highways and railways to avoid the excessive cost of land nearer to load centres, as well as to minimise transmission line costs by the installation of solar power plants at a height of 10 meters above the rail tracks or roads is another possibility.

India has been ranked number one in terms of solar electricity production per watt installed, with an insolation of 1700 to 1900 kWh/KWp. India’s first solar power project (with a capacity of 5 MW) was started on 16 May 2011, in Sivagangai Village, Sivaganga district, Tamil Nadu. It has been registered under the Clean Development Mechanism and utilises solar PV technology for power generation.

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