In this first part of Solar India Project we will look at small-scale solar energy generation systems. We'll investigate their advantages and disadvantages for implementation in India.
Small-scale solar systems
- Amory Lovins, chief scientist for The Rocky Mountain Institute argues that a transition from fossil fuels to renewables can be made swiftly and economically by shifting away from a centralized generation model. In 'Renewables, Micropower, and the Transforming Electricity Landscape' he commented that: “The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is only one of the shifts transforming the electricity landscape. Equally important is the ‘scale story’- the transition from large to small scale and away from giant central thermal power plants to micropower” (Cohen, Bennet, Lovins 2010).
- " ‘micropower’ (distributed generation) in which electricity generated by smaller scale, mostly renewable-based units for local use, can be a key factor in facilitating an energy transition. He argues that micropower, with its lower financial risk, modular nature, easy implementation into existing grid infrastructure, more efficient transmission profile and potential to use mostlyrenewable power sources will help facilitate such a transition" (Cohen, Bennet, Lovins 2010)
- The first concept in small-scale solar energy we will investigate is the fully-autonomous (off macogrid) microgrid. Microgrids are decentralised renewable energy systems. They may on the larger-side comprise an entire village, and on the smaller-side comprise a university campus. As around 70% of people in India live in rural areas, we will focus on rural microgrids.
Advantages of fully-autonomous microgrids:
- - Microgrids gained popularity following the blackouts on 31 July 2012 - which were the largest power outage in history. The outage affected over 620 million people, about 9% of the world population, or half of India's population, spread across 22 states in Northern, Eastern, and Northeast India. The obvious advantage of a microgrid is that it is isolated from any macrogrid disturbance.
- - Place individuals out of the grip of large corporations that run the macrogrid; once the microgrid is established the financial costs are significantly reduced for the microgrid participants
- - Constant electricity supply will enable: 24hr lighting (improving safety and allowing students to study during the night), refrigeration, electric cookers (reducing hazardous pollution from wood/dung/coal cookstoves), provide opportunity for community PCs and internet access, energy for water-pumps (either for drinking or agriculture), hot water (if integrate solar-thermal with PV)
- 1. Rural microgrid loans placed in the priority lending sector for banks. Useful as RBI madates that banks have a certain percentage of their lending exposure risk to the priority sector. Priority sector loans are also at lower than normal commercial lending rates.
- 2. Whilst rural microgrids will not usually be connected to the macrogrid -- which would enable selling of excess energy to large energy corporations -- they can feasibly be connected to local cell-towers. In rural areas these are often powered by diesel generators! This would provide clean energy for cell-towers and provide a way to sell excess energy.