Solar Energy in India & integration at different levels

Present Scenario in India

In India various ministries have been formed which are working on various energy conservation and increasing efficiency of energy sources. At national level various ministries have been formed which are working for energy conservation by various means, these ministries include:

  • Ministry of New & Renewable Energy
  • Ministry of Power
  • Ministry of Environment & Forest
  • Ministry of Urban Development

MNRE has taken a number of initiatives in form of policies for states and by means of schemes for end consumers and commercial projects. Some of the steps taken by MNRE to encourage the use of solar energy.

  • Introduction of Net metering Policy
  • Formation of Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI)
  • Setting Renewable Energy Purchase Obligation (RPO) for states
  • Introduction of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)
  • Subsidy for Solar PV Panels & Solar Water Heating Systems (SWHS)
  • Subsidy for other new & renewable energy sources

Other ministries have also made various policies, provided guidelines and setup agencies which undertake work of working for the ministry’s vision. The methods adopted of energy efficiency and managing the demand and supply side of energy the initiatives can be in collaboration, support of other ministry or initiative of individual ministry. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Introduction of Energy Conservation Act, 2001
  • Formation of Bureau of Energy Efficiency
  • Energy Efficiency Building Code
  • National Solar Mission
  • Integrated Power Policy, 2006

Various states have formulated their own “Solar Power Policy” for use of solar energy thus enabling a state to meet its power requirements and reduce its dependency over fossil fuels. Building bye laws are being used as a regulatory mechanism. Different state governments have taken initiatives to make use of renewable energy, for .ex. use of SWHS is mandatory in some states and incentives like reduced building permit charges, subsidy are provided to encourage its use. Use of SWHS has been prescribed by number of states however use of Solar PV panels is not mentioned in any of the building bye laws if any then the byelaws are in draft form or complete information is not provided. Standard formed by MNRE are being used neglecting the location, local factors and climate.

At building level users have taken initiatives to install SWHS, Solar PV panels and other measures to reduce dependency on power discoms. These initiatives may or may not make use of govt. subsidy and at times is because of awareness, environmental concern or reducing electricity bill and carbon emissions.

Initiatives in other countries

Various countries have taken a number of initiatives to make use of solar energy. In European nations solar energy is being harnessed for heating purpose as well as for electricity generation. The method and use of solar energy is done on basis of requirement, it has been observed that the use of Solar Energy for heating is more effective as compared to converting it directly into electricity. Direct conversion of sunlight in electricity by PV panels increases the cost of project but the electricity can be put for various uses which is not possible if solar energy is used directly for heating requirement.

There is a wide and large-scale use of solar energy in many countries because of policies adopted by them which makes in mandatory/necessary to make use of solar energy while constructing buildings. In most of the examples it is mandatory to use solar PV panels or tap thermal potential of sunlight to reduce the carbon footprint of the building. Incentives and subsidy provided by the government and concerned agency is also a prime reason for tapping solar energy.

The use of rooftop solar panels has been encouraged as it reduces the need and requirement of the land to set up commercial solar farms or solar thermal power plants. This also helps citizens in reducing their electricity bills and decreases their dependency on power discoms. It also helps them in gaining uninterrupted power supply and makes them less effected in case of power cuts.

Transformation of Cities

Possible initiatives for any country

Wide scale use of solar energy can be achieved by taking various measures which are integrated with other initiatives and needs to be taken us at different levels. Currently the policies and schemes are operating at National level, State level and building level. To tap the significant potential of solar energy or any other energy which can be harnessed at building level needs guidelines and policies which work at different levels in a hierarchy. This hierarchy can be:

  1. National Level
  2. State Level
  3. City Level
  4. Zonal Level
  5. Neighbourhood Level
  6. Building Level

Initiatives taken at different levels will be interrelated and thus interdependent thus due consideration needs to be given at the steps which will be taken up at different level. Methods of utilizing the solar energy at city level and neighbourhood levels needs to be focused as India already have national, state and building level policies. The existing policies also needs to be improved for increased efficiency.

Importance of Solar Energy sunlight for homes

At city level and zonal level use of solar radiation maps. Formation of agency to take initiative for various building types such as public buildings, residential buildings, residential & institutional buildings can be done. These agencies can coordinate with the state govt. for releasing funds and registering the projects for sale of carbon credits. This will enable better implementation of policies formulated at national & state level and bridge the gap between the users and concerned agency. Vision like “Carbon Neutral Cities” can be formed and policy for zero energy standard for new public buildings can be adopted. Also fixing a minimum lot size for new public buildings can help in getting larger area.

At neighbourhood level small grids can be setup as the supply and demand for a small parcel of land will display a more predictable pattern of electricity consumption. This will also enable users to gain benefit of their initiatives. This decentralized method of electricity generation will also help in saving the transmission loss which amounts to upto 12% when using coal based thermal power plants and save in cost for laying electricity lines. This can be done by introduction of Gross Metering Policy for areas with similar energy consumption. In this method cost reduction is achieved by installation of a common electricity meter and users agrees to divide the total bill equally. This helps in initial cost reduction by savings on otherwise cost incurred for individual electricity meters.

Power Transmissoin

At building level modifications in building bye laws can be of great help. Addition of information about tapping solar energy by PV panels will enable decentralized power generation and power conservation. This can also be done by means of incentives in building by laws and increasing awareness about the environmental concerns, need, benefit of switching to clean source of energy and away from fossil fuels.

Policy can also be made keeping in mind the area requirement and place of installation of PV Panels. Land requirement is a major concern for utilizing solar energy and thus there is a need of finding land. In urban and developed areas this problem becomes stark because of high land value. This problem can be overcome by use of rooftop grid connected solar panels for various building type and by utilizing the unused spaces.

At small-scale (for self-consumption) Solar PV panels can be installed on any place free from shade. Few examples include:

  • Roof of fuel stations/ petrol pumps
  • housing buildings, commercial, public & institution buildings
  • In parking lots
  • Metro Stations
  • On façade of buildings
  • Over bus shelters
  • Train coaches
  • Over foot over bridges

 For large-scale and commercial projects solar PV panels can be installed on:

  • Airports
  • Railway stations
  • Bus & railway depots
  • Along expressways (where entry is restricted)
  • Over canals
  • Waste land
  • Rooftop of low rise industries

Use of Solar Radiation maps at city & zonal level

Copenhagen is one of the few cities in the world which is making use of maps to estimate the feasibility of the roof top solar panels. The information is available free of cost to all the residents which enables them to check the feasibility before installation which helps them to look for other alternatives before taking action.

This assessment is on basis of various factors such as duration of sunlight, direction of light, heights of surrounding buildings and their shadows. The city is divided in 3 categories on basis of roof top area. These categories are:

  1. m. – 100 sq.m.
  2. 100 sq.m. – 200 sq.m.
  3. More than 200 sq.m.

Solar energy integration

After this categorization the feasibility is classified on basis of potential for electricity generation as:

  1. Very Good (more than 1000 units/sq.m./year)
  2. Good/fair (800 units – 1000 units/sq.m./year)
  3. Reasonable (less than 800 units/sq.m./year)

In this buildings with very good and good feasibility are most suitable for use of PV Panels whereas those marked as reasonable are encouraged to have an assessment of other use of solar energy as PV panels may not be efficient in these cases. This categorization is done by colour coding as shown in the above images. This map also provides detailed calculations of solar radiation on the roof surface. This helps residents to save time and assessment cost incurred prior to installation of panels.

Different local plans are also available in these maps. These include:

  • Local plans
  • Local plan proposals
  • Start statements
  • City plans
  • Adjustment Plans
  • Ordinary/ other plans

Information about installation/covering of public building with solar PV panels by government/concerned agency is available under these plans.

Author: This article forms a part of Clean Energy Management by Urban Local Bodies: A Case Study of New Delhi Municipal Council by Shubham Aggarwal. He did his bachelor degree in Planning from School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi.