Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 45 “Solar Rooftops in India”

My dear friends,

India has been a land of revolutions witnessing the life changing upheavals like the Green Revolution and the White Revolution. Now she is on the verge of next revolution i.e. “Solar Revolution”. The newly set target of 100 GW Solar Energy by 2022 will change the position of India on the map of solar powered nations across the world. With 38 GW, Germany has led the world in Solar PV with a global aggregate of 177 GW. Can India follow suit?

Out of the Indian target, 40 GW is earmarked for Solar Rooftops. Our country has around 337 million houses as per the census 2011. A 1-kW system per house could add up to 337 GW of installed capacity; commercial and industrial rooftop space being additional avenue for generation which signifies that the 40 GW target is a small fraction of the potential. The commencements of “Make in India”, “Start-up India”, “Stand-up India”, “Housing for all by 2022” and “Digital India” missions are other elements which can complement and accelerate the transition.

Today, India’s 1/3rd population has no access to electricity and lives in darkness. This can only be answered by decentralised sources of energy like solar. Solar Rooftop PV (SRPV) is a decentralised technology, which is being encouraged due to its low land footprint and ability to reduce transmission and distribution (T&D) losses. Weak local distribution infrastructure, lack of economies of scale and poor social outlook has prevented SRPV systems from penetrating the Indian market. Currently India has only 300 MW of rooftop solar projects.

Consumer awareness

A survey was conducted by one of our PGPM (Energy) students to gauge the awareness of consumers towards solar technology and the apprehensions/partial knowledge related to it. It was an on-line survey and more than 50% respondents belonged to the age group of 25-30 yrs. Most of the respondents (98.3%) were aware of solar technology and the cost of the system which signifies that people now know about the solar rooftop PV technology.

Encouraging feedback was that about 84% of the respondents showed their willingness towards installing SRPV system in future. Most of the respondents are not fully aware of the incentives and subsidies provided by the Government. Almost 41% of the respondents knew about the area required for the installation of SRPV. However, only 6% of the total respondents have installed SRPV systems.

Almost 38% of the respondents were not aware of the new target of 100 GW of Solar deployments by 2022. About 59% of the respondents didn’t know about the Net-metering scheme. There were some ‘true-false’ questions which were asked to test the apprehensions in the minds of consumers. The results show that the respondents are still not aware of the basic features of the SRPV system and have certain false assumptions like solar PVs may cause electric shocks; it will not generate electricity during clouds, etc.

The results show that still a lot is to be done at the awareness front to give a boost to the SRPVs in India. An awareness and a promotional program is proposed to remove the apprehensions and for the better penetration of the technology with promotional ads like that of “Clean Water”, “Sanitation”, “Child Education” etc. The Government can also mandate each energy generator whether conventional or non-conventional to put an information board emphasizing the benefits of Solar Rooftop PV.

Possible Elements of Awareness Campaign

  1. With about 300 clear sunny days, the solar energy available in a year (5000 trillion kWh) exceeds the possible energy output of all fossil fuel energy reserves in India.
  2. India is ranked number one in terms of solar electricity production per watt installed.
  3. The electricity generated by Solar PV becomes free in 6-7 years (payback period) and you enjoy free power thereafter.
  4. Government provides 15% subsidy on the capital cost of installation of solar rooftop PV.
  5. Solar PV works more efficiently in cold climates (see graphs below).
  6. On a cloudy day, typical solar panels can produce 10-25% of their rated capacity. The exact amount will vary depending on the density of the clouds, and may also vary by the type of solar panel.
  7. The Solar PV doesn’t give electric shocks if touched rather they are required to be cleaned daily to keep them dust-free to increase efficiency.
  8. 1-kWp of solar panels typically require 8-12 m2 of shade free area to generate 4 kWh per day.
  9. Cost of Solar Rooftop PV varies between ₹80,000 to ₹100,000 per kW system.
  10. The electricity generated from solar PV costs ₹6/kWh.
  11. The solar energy generated can be supplied to the grid if in surplus.

Recently, a team of researchers from Stanford University have devised an ingenious means of boosting the efficiency of solar panels by exploiting a fundamental physics phenomenon. Solar panels lose efficiency as they heat up. Just as the top of our head radiates excess body heat as infrared light, the researchers have developed a translucent overlay comprised of patterned silica that does the same for solar panels. The overlay separates the visible spectrum of light (which generates electricity) from its thermal radiation, effectively “cooling” the incoming light, radiating the heat away from the panel while allowing more photons to be converted into electricity. Thermal overlay cools the panel’s surface by as much as 22o F and boosts energy production by 1 % (a sizable efficiency jump in the world of solar energy production @ 11-15% panel efficiency).

The fact that the “Solar panels lose efficiency as they heat up” and “that they can suit more the colder and sunny climate” seems to have been ignored in the state-wise target allocation of SRPV out of 40 GW by MNRE in June’2015.

Climate Change and Solar Rooftops

The National Action Plan on Climate Change obligates use of Renewable sources of energy to reduce the carbon footprint. The recent move of the Government in continuation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (2010) to install 100 GW of Solar by 2022 is a step forward to Climate change mitigation and connecting the unconnected through distributed source of energy. As the country moves towards the clean energy deployment, it also happens to be a good time for all stakeholders to spread their wings in the new market.

Solar energy revolution seems to be the next big thing after the achievement of Mars mission for India. It is high time for Government to prioritize its further movement towards the building of healthy and sustainable policy & regulatory regime to nourish the sector. A lot of improvement will also be required in the infrastructure to avail the net-metering and feed-in-tariff schemes.


Graph 1 & 2 : Temperature coefficient for crystalline cells

The Government can obligate the banks for financing an allotted target capacity of solar rooftop projects in a way similar to the RPOs for Industries/Utilities. Housing financing scheme should attach Home loan with a loan for Solar Rooftops. T
he “Make in India” program is an attraction to many foreign investors and soon the companies will base their units in the country; the Government can mandate Solar Generation Obligation (SGO) to utilize their rooftop space. An agreement and support from Discom’s would smoothen the trajectory of growth.


India’s Latest Initiatives at Global Level

It was our Prime Minister’s dream to associate 100+ Solar rich nations like consortium of Oil rich nations to harness solar energy faster by pooling their resources. This indeed happened in Paris during 2015-United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, during 30th Nov-12th Dec’2015. [ It was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.]

The Paris declaration aiming at containing the earth’s temperature rise to 2o C above pre-industrial level by limiting to 1000 billion tonnes of carbon, encompassed  “International Solar Alliance” of the countries to share the collective ambition to undertake innovative and concerted efforts for reducing the cost of finance and cost of technology for immediate deployment of competitive solar generation, financial instruments to mobilise more than 1000 Billion US $ of investments needed by 2030 for the massive deployment of affordable solar energy and to pave the way for future solar generation, storage and utilization for countries’ individual needs. Soon thereafter International Solar Alliance – the First International and Inter-Governmental Organisation of 121 Countries with United Nations as Strategic Partner was inaugurated by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and the President of France Mr François Hollande. They jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Headquarters and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), MNRE, Gurgaon on 25-Jan-2016.

These are positive steps which may also boost Solar rooftops segment in future.

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

BE(Hons), M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI-Scholar, D.Engg. (Calif.), FNAE, Hon.D.WRE (USA)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex. Director (REC) / Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)


Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 17 – Mindset Issues of Electricity Sector

My dear young friends,

Once a non-technical colleague of mine in NHPC asked me an innocent question. He said “if I switch off the bulb during my lunch time, how does it help? The electricity has already been generated and traveled to my doorstep. Can it be degenerated? How does it save the resource-water or coal responsible for generation?” I realized that day that electricity is an extremely complex product being utilized by common man. Neither its technicalities nor its economics are easy to understand by the consumers and other stakeholders.

There is a notion in public mind that solar electricity is expensive. Yes, if you think of a 50 MW plant supplying to a city but if you think of a 50 KW plant supplying to a small village it breaks even with other sources like gas/diesel. And if you talk about a 50 W installation for a hut, it works out to be the cheapest version. Therefore Solar is expensive for the rich but most economical for the poor. 

As Director (Technical) REC, once I was addressing a meeting of Chairmen, SEBs. I was questioning and criticizing them for locating electrical sub-stations non-optimally. After listening to me for a while, Chairman of one of the largest Electricity Boards stood up and said “We don’t decide the location of the sub-stations. Each 33 KV sub-station is decided by the local MLA and 132 KV sub-station by the local MP”. Imagine more than Rs 60,000 Cr. is being pumped into the Indian grid system from the central Govt. under APDRP & R-APDRP programs for rectifying and re-configuring the network to reduce the ill effects of sub-stations located off the load centers.

Once I was sitting with the MD of West Bengal Power Development Corporation during evening time. Looking at the ‘Frequency Watch’ in his office, I told him how lucky he was to have frequency very close to 50 Hz. He said “Please wait for an hour or so, you will see a rising surge in this frequency as soon as NTPC’s Super Thermal Plants start pumping power with no sensitivity to grid frequency, since they have to bag Gold Medals for their high PLF. My small generators cannot withstand that high frequency and break down due to higher centrifugal forces on the LP side.” They get the Gold Medals and we incur huge losses, he said.

Once I visited the control room of Scandinavian Power Pool (100,000 MW) in Stockholm.  I observed a typical wall clock there with a single arm, hardly having moved from its zero position. On enquiry I came to know that it was showing the guilt accumulated in last 24-hours of frequency supply variation. In our country we don’t have guilt watches or “Guilt” itself. In the rural end of supply the voltage levels being alarmingly low, the agricultural pump-sets draw higher current and in the process get burnt up, incurring huge expenditure on their repairs.

What we see in India today is insensitivity towards customers/ consumers of electricity. Once we were conducting a program on “Six sigma for power distribution” in a large Power Distribution Company. At the end of the Program, head of a distribution zone shot a question. “Why six sigma in power distribution?” Though it is a quality tool by which we can analyze a pain area of our business and improve upon it to make more profit, he said. He went on further to say why should his company make more profit when Govt. regulations mandate only 16% return on investment by the company.

I was stunned. I asked him what stops him from making more profit and passing it on to the customer. “Customer was not only out of focus but was out of sight”. For instance in Delhi the two private sector companies claim to have reduced the AT&C losses (including theft) from nearly 50% to 15%. If this benefit is passed on to the customers, their energy bills are bound to reduce.

A shocking question was posed to me on another occasion after concluding a Program on “Energy Conservation” for a Power Distribution Company again. “Why should we promote energy conservation, when we are in energy supply business? Let the consumers waste energy. Every extra unit we supply, we have a profit margin in it. An interesting question emerging out of perceptional perversion and lack of values and consciousness…..!

I had to make an effort answering the above question. I said firstly there should be no worry as a hardcore businessman, as for any unit saved there is a queue waiting for new connections which is a profit making proposition. The argument fitted well in the conversant 1st orbit of intellectual logic. Secondly I asked them whether they would like to supply energy in energy surplus/ wasting area or energy starved area? I gave them an example. In Hawaii sugar industries at the receptions, one is offered sugar as well as sugar-free crystals along with the tea. Once I asked them as to why they offer ‘sugar-free’ as sugar producers, their reply was “we don’t produce sugar for sugar-surplus people”. Similarly as responsible energy producers and suppliers good businessmen should have a clear preference for energy-starved area vis-a-vis energy-surplus or energy-wasting area. This was the 2nd orbit of emotional intelligence.

Finally taking them to the 3rd orbit of social and spiritual consciousness, I said that after 10 years, even if the supply equals demand, for every unit saved there will be a saving of 1 kg of coal (conserving it for the future generations); 1 kg of CO2, 0.4 kg of ash, 6 gm of Nitrous Oxide and 1 gm of Sulphur-di-oxide (causing pollution for the present generation) !!

There is so much of hype about “Smart Grid” but no one knows where it exists in India. If every Circle/ City distribution could have just declared its peak hours and the differential tariff, displaying it on the internet and insisted for a timer in the consumers’ meters; the load curves would have flattened meeting the first and foremost obligation of a Smart Grid. What is perhaps required is implementation mindset !

Wish you all a very happy and enlightening Diwali!

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI Scholar, D.Engg.(Calif), FNAE
Hon.D.WRE (ranked amongst 30-most eminent scientists in the world)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex-Director (REC)/ Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)