The solar way to power

Rahul MunjalBy Rahul Munjal @RahulMunjal14 @HeroFuture_HFE
Chairman & Managing Director, Hero Future Energies Ltd

When the first hand-held, solar-powered calculators were introduced at the end of the 1970s, little did we realise that this technology would revolutionise the power sector in the 21st century.

Solar is maturing fast as a mainstream energy source. In India, such a statement would have been nothing short of fiction some time ago.

In contrast, today India is home to the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which has 121 countries as its prospective members. The First Assembly of the ISA is scheduled to take place from 3-5 October 2018 in Delhi, and will have attendees at the Ministerial level from 68 Member Nations. That should tell you something about the momentum solar has gathered in the country. ISA’s significance extends beyond India. Member Nations are witnessing a surge in investments and job creation in their economies thanks to this impetus behind solar. With an increased focus in R&D in renewables, it is becoming more efficient and affordable – an excellent yet equally necessary combination.

The recent past has been encouraging. As of August 2018, cumulative solar (grid connected) installations in India have surpassed 25GW, with close to 5GW being installed in the first half of this year alone. The near future is expected to witness an even greater thrust in growth as solar moves from vanilla grid-connected projects to newer and more innovative forms of use.

In India, solar is firing on all cylinders or – one might say – making hay while the sun shines. India launched its first wind-solar hybrid plant in April 2018 to help optimise power generated from renewable energy sources, while record low tariffs are making rooftop solar a viable option. Commercial rooftop solar projects are also picking up pace in India, with overall rooftop solar projects now at 2.5GW.

12_HFE_NISE

India’s National Solar Mission (NSM) which was quite successful in driving the local PV market to attain third position globally last year; the nation is eyeing similar success in energy storage. The increasing adoption of lithium ion battery in the renewable power generation system, which enhances reliability and flexibility of the system, is likely to escalate the demand for storage solutions. By combining the above innovations we can reduce the intermittency of renewable power. For example, we are developing wind-solar hybrid plants with storage and working to optimise their Plant Load Factor (PLF).

With the Government’s plan to electrify all of India’s villages, there is a huge potential to provide decentralised solar solutions in the remote corners of the country with shorter transmission lines. If the private sector is encouraged, results could be electrifying. Just as India has leapfrogged from limited landline connectivity straight into a mobile revolution in rural areas, it could see the same phenomenon with these decentralised microgrids.

ISA is an extremely noble idea whose time has come. The industry is both highly competitive and cooperative. The key to renewable energy future is greater collaboration. The exchange of knowledge and technology will enable greater inflow of capital and employment for ISA’s Member Nations. As we continue to explore and find synergies, our goal should be to power the entire world with renewable energy 24X7.

*
First published for 2nd Global RE-INVEST 2018 at re-invest.in.
Photo: 151 KWp rooftop solar installation at the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram, India, also the headquarters of the ISA. Executed by HFE in January 2016.