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The solar way: Facing the energy crisis

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  21 April 2016 12:00 AM GMT

By Dr Rajiv Chandra Dev Goswami

A country becoming shelter for more than 1.32 billion people, India is under tremendous threat of power crisis. It is estimated that India catches the fifth rank in the world in terms of electricity production as well as consumption. The majority of power generation source is from coal (53%) and in is predicted that the country’s coal reserve won’t last beyond 2014-2050, which is going to be very critical. Most of the villages in India are still deprive of electricity. Therefore the recent need of the country should be primarily focused on energy production and conservation and followed by meeting the energy demand through altertive ways such as renewable energy or solar energy production.

India with a scope of remarkable range for solar energy production, situated at a suitable geographic location making it very compelling to explore and utilize solar energy. Most of the Indian population lives in rural areas, which are still without electricity connections, so the technology distribution should be uniform to all the remote areas of the country. States like Gujarat, Harya, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar are indicated as hotspot for solar energy production. Here in Assam too most of the villages are facing energy crisis. There is extensive load shading and power cuts during peak hours. The sufferers include mostly the students, who still study under lamp light and are adversely affected in examition results followed by ippropriate academic carrier. In developing cities like Guwahati, the energy demand is very high throughout the day but it is mentioble that a major portion of electricity is wasted through illumition of large glow signs, advertisements and road side hoardings. In G.S. road, Guwahati, there are a large number of shopping malls consuming a huge portion of electricity daily basis and power demand shoots up during night hours. The eye catching hoardings and star like illumition of the malls eating a heavy portion of state electricity. But it is thought provoking that if they could produce their own electricity or at least a portion of it by utilizing their building roof tops for solar panels, a large portion of electricity can be generated and conserved by each of the malls. City administration may start the initiative to utilize solar energy and make mandatory installation of solar panels in large hotels, hospitals and shopping malls. Many major roadways and bye lanes in the city are still under darkness making a very unsafe proposition for students and working women during night time. Therefore solar powered street lights are urgent need of this region. This has already been installed in many other cities of this country.

In July 2009, India unveiled US $1.9 billion plan to produce 20GW of solar power by 2020. Under the plan, the use of solar powered equipments and applications would be made compulsory in all Government buildings as well as hospitals and hotels. In solar panels the solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells convert solar radiation (sunlight) into electricity. A solar cell is a semi-conducting device made of silicon and/or other materials, which, when exposed to sunlight, generates electricity. Solar cells are connected in series and parallel combitions to form modules that provide the required power.

The ministry of new and renewable energy provides 70% subsidy on installation cost of a solar photovoltaic power plant in North Eastern states. In Assam, renewable energy only makes up 3% of the state’s energy mix. Assam has less wind power potential to meet its power demand but the state’s solar power potential could be better exploited. The State has around 240 to 260 clear days every year and 4.4 to 5.6 KWh of solar power potential per square metre per day, according to The Energy Research Institute (TERI) as estimates by Mr. C.K. Deorah.

Indian railways too soon be implementing solar powered coaches which is a part of Railway Ministry,s motivated plan to utilize solar energy to run trains. As a pilot project, one non-air-conditioned coach of Rewari-Sitapur passenger train was been fitted with solar panels on the rooftop. The trial has been successful and quite promising as about 17 units of electricity were generated per day in a non AC coach. Which may reduce diesel consumption up to 90,000 liters per year and can bring down the CO2 emissions by over 200 tonnes. Economic Times predicts that railway is planning to come out with a solar output of 1000MW in the next 5 years According to the plan, Railways proposes to install solar power plants of about 8.8MW capacity at a few railway stations. Here in Guwahati, Assam, Indian Railways have already installed many solar powered lighting systems in various Railways crossing throughout the city. India’s first Solar Powered Airport, the intertiol airport in Cochin, Kerala, is sending a message to the world on this front by building a 12-megawatt (MW) solar power plant. This project makes Cochin the first 100% solar-powered airport in the world.

In North Eastern states Academic institutions, Universities and a number of colleges have already installed solar powered electrification facilities. Keeping in mind that Assam have to look for an altertive source of power generation in coming years, particularly cities like Guwahati, where peak urbanization and rapid flourishing of shopping malls; solar power may be a boon for electricity production. A combined effort and strong policies in near future by both the governments may make the solar power usable and utilizable in a best possible way touching each and every corner of the state.

(Author is Former Inspire Fellow, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, Ph- 9864108070, Email rajivgoswami23@gmail.com)

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