India is a sunny country with a solar energy potential of 20 mw every square km. At present, only a tiny fraction of it is being tapped. Solar energy can be used directly in two forms – producing heat or light. Production of light and electric current from the sun’s rays uses ‘photovoltaic technology’, which involves direct conversion of sunlight into electricity.
The thermal form, which is used for cooking, water heating or purification, drying and fruit ripening, distillation or producing steam for power generation, is more economical. Solar cookers are already well-known and popular. Solar cooking has been recommended even in the Rig Veda which says: ‘All edibles ripened or cooked in the sun’s rays change into super medicine, the amrita”.
Solar energy has every thing to recommend it. Unlimited and non-polluting. It will neither drain our mineral resources nor submerge large tracts under dam waters. If only it could be tapped cheaply. That is what technicians are trying to do the world over.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy supports Research, Design and Development (RD&D) activities in New and Renewable Energy including solar energy in the country. Comprehensive guidelines for supporting and accelerating pace of Research, Design and Development leading to eventual manufacture and deployment of various Renewable Energy Systems including solar energy have been put in place.
An amount of Rs. 600 crore has been tentatively allocated for Research, Design and Development in the Energy Sector for the 11th Five Year Plan. During the last Five Year Plan period, Rs. 72.65 crore were spent for the same activities. The Ministry has financially sported about 600 RD&D Projects particularly in Solar Energy Sector.
New schemes have been launched by the Ministry in addition to implementation of ongoing schemes to encourage large-scale use of solar energy in the country during the 11th Five Year Plan Period. The new schemes include ‘Development of Solar Cities’ and ‘Demonstration Programme on MW size Grid Solar Power Generation’. In addition, Research and Development thrust areas for solar and other New and Renewable Energy Technologies for the 11th Five Year Plan period have also been identified and publicised through newspaper and website advertisements for further intensifying research and technology development in this area. Promotional measures taken by the Government and other associated agencies include publicity and awareness campaigns, amendment of building bye-laws for making the use of solar water heaters mandatory in certain categories of buildings, rebate in property tax/electricity tariff to the users of solar water heaters, etc.
Solar Energy Plants
The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy promoted deployment of nine Solar Energy Plants during 2007-08 in six States of the Country. Out of this, Maharashtra tops the list with three Plants where as Jammu & Kashmir got two such Plants. Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Orissa and West Bengal each got one power plant during this period. The total capacity sanctioned for these plants is less than 2000 kwp. The capacity under implementation is more than 800 kwp.
Out of different Plant Projects, all the six States have received one Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Project. The State of West Bengal has been sanctioned highest capacity of 945.0 kwp followed by Chhattisgarh with 646.8 kWp. Besides these Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra, each have been sanctioned Building Integrated Power Plants (BIPV) with total sanctioned capacity of 18 kWp and one each SPV Power Pack of total sanctioned capacity of 8 kWp.
The Ministry is promoting deployment of solar photovoltaic power packs/plants in different parts of the country under various programmes including remote village electrification programme by providing partial financial support. These projects are implemented through the state implementing agencies in their respective states. The total funds released to the state agencies are to the tune of Rs. 40 crore which includes funds for four ongoing projects also. These projects are likely to be completed during 2008-09.
The projects for installation of solar photovoltaic power packs/plants are considered by the Ministry on the basis of proposals submitted by the States, as per provisions of the scheme and availability of funds.
Non-polluting, requiring little maintenance, free from wear and tear caused by moving parts, solar power is the most promising form of energy for the future.