Lok Sabha TV- Public Forum: Tapping Solar Potential
A new solar plant has been unveiled in Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu which is seen as the world’s largest solar power plant ata single location. With this, India is expected to become the world’s 3rd biggest solar market after China and the US from next year and the new plant has pushed its total installed solar capacity to cross the 10 GW mark, an achievement that only a few countries can claim. India has set a massive target of powering 60 million homes by solar energy by 2022 as part of the Government’s 2030 goal to produce 40% of its power from non-fossil fuels. While this sounds impressive, the country still needs to do a lot in achieving its ambitious goals
- Spread over an area of 10 square kilometres.
- The plant has about 2.5 million individual solar modules.
- Capacity of 648 MW.
- Built at a cost of over Rs. 4500 crores.
- At its full capacity, the Kamuthi solar power plant is estimated to produce enough electricity to power about 150,000 homes in the area.
Kamuthi power plant is a big step for realization of the solar dependence of India. It is situated in the region which receives a large amount of solar radiation for a longer duration because it is near the Equator and rainy days are also less compared to other states. The area required for these types of plants are not available in cities. It is available only in less populated areas. This is a problem as well as advantage because large areas are required to collect the equivalent power levels. For example: If 1 MW capacity of solar power plant is installed, it would require more than 15000 square metres area. Among states, Tamil Nadu has been doing pretty well in terms of its total cumulative capacity which is the highest as compared to the states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
India’s Progress in Solar Energy:
In the Paris Agreement, India committed that 100 GW of solar energy out of 175 GW renewable energy basket by 2022 will be achieved. In the past, the growth of solar energy was very less. If the growth in the solar energy sector increases, it will gradually lead to lowering down of the prices and make it affordable for people. Solar energy is still considered one of the most expensive technologies available but subsequently there are different ways to harness it like photovoltaic technology for electric power, concentrated solar technologies to produce steam or solar thermal technologies which produce heat for purposes like water heating. Solar thermal technology has got big utility in countries like India. Solar cookers and solar water heaters are quite popular among people. Solar PVs can useful in remote areas to meet the demands of the people particularly off-grid supplies.
As far as other countries are concerned, Japan has encountered problems while pursuing its renewable energy goals. Japan is a small island and solar structures can be erected on vast stretches of land. Japan is going for rooftop solar energy. In India also right business model has come up for rooftop solar energy. In this regard, two things are to be considered. The first is the capacity of the structure to take load of the solar installations and the other one is the area required. More the number of solar panels, more area will be required. In the northern states, the land is very fertile and is used for growing crops. Therefore, wasteland can be used for installation purposes. Therefore, states like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan are naturally ideal places for harnessing solar energy. Apart from this, the Governments of these states are also incentivising the plan.
Drawbacks in Harnessing Solar Energy:
The plant load factor which is the time for which the power is available. In case of thermal power plants, it is as high as 90% because coal power can be used anytime. The plant load factor for hydroelectric energy is still less as it can be used only when water is available and for solar radiation, this is much lesser because this can be used only when the sunshine is available.
Fabrication of different components of solar installations are made from different energy sources. The energy used in fabrication has also to be realized over the years which is called energy payback time. Photovoltaic solar energy has maximum payback time of 7-8 years which means that there would be no net energy produced during these years.
In the long run, there is a need for regular consultation between centre and states along with financial aids which India has received from World Bank of $ 1 trillion. In future also coal will remain a major source of power but the renewable energy sources have their own niche in remote areas because these sources of energy can work efficiently in these areas without transmission costs involved. Cost effectiveness along with benefits reaching to the targeted people will decide the course of renewable energy sector’s progress in the coming time.