India a leader in solar energy solutions

Monday, 28 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India can offer other countries solar energy solutions for electrification of remote areas after having achieved considerable success in use of such alternate energy sources in many areas of the country.

Among top five countries in production of solar power, India is leading in the production of solar photovoltaic (SPV) products that are able to provide electricity to households in remote areas like Ladakh, Sunderbans and the Lakshadweep islands that are unconnected to the power grid.

"Of the 121 MW of solar power production capacity in India, around 55 MW of photovoltaic modules has so far been exported to the U.S., Europe, Australia and neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka," B. Bhargava, director of photovoltaic division in the ministry of non-conventional energy sources (MNES) told IANS in an interview.

Subsidised by the MNES, it is only in the last decade that India's solar energy programme along with other non-conventional energy programmes have gathered steam and put India among the top bracket of countries working in this field.

The advantage of the SPV modules, being produced largely through public sector companies like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. and the Central Electronics Ltd., is that they do not have to be connected to the power grid.

Instead, as in Leh, in Ladakh, thousands of households are able to use it to light up their homes using plentiful sunlight available during daytime.

Working like batteries, these modules get recharged when sun falls on them and are able to generate electricity during night hours. Companies like Tata BP Solar are using such devices to power toy trains and other devices in amusement and energy parks.

Currently, eight Indian companies hold international certification for their products.

"From lighting up homes and work place to operation of water pumps, this device is being used for electrification of remote villages and providing alternative source of power for telecom equipment," said Bhargava.

While India gets sunlight for well over 300 days in a year, the high initial capital cost has been a big hindrance to the more rapid development of the solar energy programme. This is despite the fact that "our prices are at par with global prices of $3 per watt. We need to able to bring down the cost on one dollar per watt for the programme to really take off," a MNES official said.

Setting up a 1MW solar plant costs as much as R.300 million, which is several fold more that thermal or hydropower plant cost of similar capacity.

India's biggest solar power success has been the electrification of the villages in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest in West Bengal. Many of these villages are six kilometres from the mainland and could not have been electrified through the power grid.

Now a number of power plants are being fed through SPV modules, generating 300 kilowatt of electricity. In the case of Lakshadweep islands in the Bay of Bengal, the SPV is being used to generate 750 KW power to replace diesel used earlier to produce power.

In Leh, thousands of homes are now able to receive electricity through modules that can provide two lights each, a senior MNES official said.

The MNES is also encouraging the industry and private sector to set up grid interactive SPV power projects. So far 31 projects of capacity aggregating to 2.5 MW have been commissioned in 10 states and three union territories, and 14 projects of 800 KW capacity are under installation in five states and four union territories.

In addition, India is also working on an integrated thermal power generation projects. The turnkey contract for one of the largest such projects planned at Mathania village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan is to be finalized by yearend.

Source: IANS
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