The Future is Sunny Side Up!

The Number of Solar Panel Fields is Increasing. PC: Zbynek Burival Source: Unsplash.com

The electricity bill had just arrived and it stopped short of giving me jitters. The amount was certainly not pocket-friendly and this set me thinking as to how I can cut corners on the bill. 

We have learnt enough of geography lessons in school as to how India’s climate is broadly classified as a hot tropical climate, except for Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim. This means that we have access to energy from the sun almost throughout the year. 

Browsing through the website of Ministry of new and renewable energy revealed many interesting facets. The government website revealed that 5,000 trillion kwh per year energy is incident over India’s land area with most parts receiving 4-7 kwh per sq m per day. 

Going by these figures, it is anybody’s understanding that solar radiation can be converted into both heat (solar thermal) and electricity (solar photovoltaics) by using technology. 

Last week, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) issued an order which said that a developer can install, own and operate solar plants on the rooftops of others by paying a monthly rent for the space used. The energy thus generated will be sold to the consumer at prices as per KERC norms. 

This order has been welcomed by many as the state is working towards achieving its target of generating 2400 MW in accordance to its 2014-2021 solar policy. 

The central government is taking lot of steps to promote solar energy. The video on the government website (https://mnre.gov.in/case-study-success-story) about women in Betul village in Madhya Pradesh and Chouldari village in Andaman islands, leading a better life when they started using solar PV cooking system is testimony enough as to what we have left untapped so far. 

They save on money, time, trouble and most of all, march towards better health. 

Ram Kumaar Shanker, a working professional from Bengaluru shares his experience about using solar power. “I feel good that I am contributing to the resource conservation in some way. People should understand that solar energy particularly in a country like ours is easily available and is usable. Rather than spending time and money on rising electric bills and having misplaced ideas on conservation, it is forthright that everyone should subscribe to the two basic fundamental ideas of solar energy and rain water harvesting,” he says.

Ram Kumaar adds that there is awareness in urban households but adoption is relatively less.   

Rural households are far more open and receptive to such ideas. The shift to solar can happen only when there is thrust from the government, incentives for adoption, roadshows for creating awareness and buy in from rural sectors,” he says.

Engineer Amit Jayashree Kulkarni, founder director, Navitas Efficens, shares many interesting insights about solar power. He says that solar power has been used by mankind directly or indirectly for a very long time. 

Box-type solar cooker was in use even in earlier days. It did not become popular because of its limitations. It could be used only during the daytime. People wanted options without limitations,” he says. 

Er Kulkarni also reveals that promoting solar power would lead to decentralized distribution generation system and also, the government would not have to invest crores of money in developing thermal power plants. 

The central government has good solar policy and they provide incentives but not all state governments promote solar power vigorously,” he says. 

With the world reeling under climate change and global warming, it is a must that people opt for non-renewable sources of energy, he adds. 

A tete-a-tete with Amol Anand, cofounder and director of Loom Solar threw more light on the topic. 

How would you explain solar power and its usage to a layman who has so far been used to other non-renewable sources?

Solar energy uses captured sunlight to create photovoltaic power (PV) or concentrated solar power (CSP) for solar heating. This energy conversion allows solar to be used to power auto motives, lights, pools, heaters and gadgets. Here’s Energy Sage’s top five list for examples of solar energy: solar transportation, solar tech, solar lighting, solar heating and our favourite – rooftop solar.

To use solar energy we need to install the solar panel and invertor which is a once time investment. Solar energy is cheaper than other sources. 

What are the steps and initiatives to be taken to promote solar power?

Worldwide, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity. India’s recent status of lowest-cost producer of solar power further reflects an ongoing shift towards renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation. Recently an analysis by IRENA found that the costs for setting up solar PV projects have dropped by about 80 per cent in India between 2010 and 2018.

Private firms are selling solar panels to end customers but government should also give more subsidiaries for solar energy users so that common people will also think about installing solar panels at their places.

Is the government doing enough? Are the government’s initiatives reaching the public?

The government initiatives are not enough.  A few initiatives like exemption from excise duties and concession on import duties on components and equipment required to set up a solar plant, a 10-year tax holiday for Solar Power Projects, Wheeling, banking and third-party sales, buy back facilities by states were given by the government to promote solar power but common people are not getting benefited out of this. A majority of the people are still not aware about the benefits of solar energy. The government has to launch an awareness programme in this regard. There are different strategies in different states for using on grid solar energy.

Is it a myth or a fact that opting for solar needs huge initial investment?

As use of solar power grows, solar panels are set to get cheaper. The benefits of solar panels outweigh the costs; from average savings on monthly electricity bills to government tax credits and subsidies. All this help cut prices of solar prices in the initial stage itself. Every state has its own incentive policy for solar panel installation. The central government currently offers 30% tax credit for installing solar array systems.

Also, net metering plans that buy back excess electricity from solar customers help bring in cash for the house owner. As solar panels are designed to meet specific requirement of each home; cost of installing solar panels depends on orientation and slope of the homes roof. Also the surrounding area needs to be considered when setting up solar panels for easy access to sunlight and is not obstructed by surrounding trees or buildings. Solar power is no way expensive. 

Sharing her thoughts on the same, Radhu Raghavan, a home maker says that she would opt for solar only as an additional or alternative source of energy.  “I feel government should create more awareness and also give incentives to people who use solar power,” she adds. 

Clearly, there is a long way to go but there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Preetha Kadhir

Preetha Kadhir is a Journalist with 15+ years of exp in national and international newspapers. She has penned rhymes for children and loves writing about education, parenting and societal issues.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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