A highly overrated topic perhaps, but I often get frustrated by the amount of sunlight we lose (250 to 300 sunny days each year) i.e. we get plenty of sunshine but do not capitalize on it enough. While I am not an expert on renewable energy sources, I thought it would be interesting to see what some of the other countries are doing to capture on solar power.
But first, here are a few reasons why we should care about alternative power sources…
The Government of India has an ambitious mission of power for all by 2012. This mission would require a generation capacity of at least 200,000 MW by 2012 from the present level of 162,366 MW.
Renewable Energy contributes about 10% of total power generated sources, with Tamil Nadu contributing 30% of it, mainly through wind power. India plans to invest $19 billion in 20,000 MW of solar power generation by 2020, pretty lofty aspiration considering that India’s current grid-connected solar capacity is no more than 15MW.
Only 44% of rural households have electricity, this after an ambitious Rural Electrification plan. I don’t have to quantify the frequent power cuts that we all experience in our homes.
Transmission losses are around 40-45%, which is pretty high. Theft is another huge issue; by 2004 World Bank estimates annual losses due to theft are around 1.5% of GDP.
So what lies ahead? What should we do, well to start we can look at few different examples of Solar Power usage:
- Konarka Corporate has developed these thin solar films (almost like plastic sheets) which the US military is planning to use to power their tents! These sheets are so thin can be easily stitched to a normal backpack or could be pasted on your windows to efficiently use solar power. Imagine the impact of these solar cells sticking to tube-wells and powering them for irrigation.
- FedEx, the US shipping service leader, 80% of its California based plant using solar electric panels. This 904 kilowatt system can produce the equivalent of power used by more than 900 homes during the daytime. The 81,000 square feet of roof space at the facility is covered with more than 5,700 solar electric panels that also help insulate the buildings, reducing heating and cooling costs. Infosys, can you please power 10% of your humongous power consuming facilities emulating this model?
- Our own Bangalore based company Selco, has been trying hard to push solar power sources. Selco did make a profit of Rs. 4 mil last year.
These are just few examples of solar power utilization and give an idea of how we can tap on it. In addition to that US government has huge tax subsidies for using solar power, so that’s a big incentive and offloads the initial expense involved in setting up solar panels.
Cost obviously is a big challenge as Coal-powered electricity costs 3.5 to 4 rupees per kilowatt-hour, compared with 17 rupees for power produced by photovoltaic cells.
But Government of India has to start giving heavy subsidies and build partnerships to bring cheaper technology for renewable sources otherwise their ambitious plans will fall flat which, obviously, will not be a big surprise for us.
What’s your take ?