Solar energy is being promoted, not only because it is readily available but also because it is renewable, non-polluting and helps reduce greenhouse gas effects. It is estimated that in the next few years, millions of households will be using solar energy. A SEMI whitepaper entitled ‘Solar PV Landscape in India
Wednesday, December 16, 2013: An Industry Perspective’, suggests that India can play a leading role in the global photovoltaic (PV) and solar industry. To implement this effectively, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources are devising various programmes along with many big organisations to harness this energy.
It makes sense that under growing energy demand and persistent energy deficit situation, India should tap abundant supply of solar energy available through average 300 sunshine days per year in the country. This will not only considerably reduce its dependence on fossil fuels for power generation but will also have enormous socioeconomic benefits.
“Solar energy can be used for meeting our growing electricity requirements. Through solar PV cells, solar radiation is converted into DC electricity, which can either be used directly or can be stored in batteries. This energy finds applications in domestic lighting, street lighting, air conditioning, water pumping, power conditioning, mobile charging, etc, says Rauf Javed, manager-sales and marketing, DD Berg Project Consultants Pvt Ltd.
“Rural areas can especially benefit from solar power that can be used for powering irrigation pumps, home and street lighting, etc, in absence of electricity,” he adds.
According to Gautam Mohanka, managing director, Gautam Polymers, “LEDs are being used in solar products. LEDs being more energy efficient drive down the costs of the total solar products, thereby making it more affordable for the end user. Thus, demand is bound to rise from a lot of sectors and government subsidies may not be the only way to support it.”
Opportunities and impediments
According to industry expert, solar PV industry in India can create up to 100,000 new jobs in the next one decade and illuminate the lives of 450 million people who presently have no access to electricity. But this requires a definite plan as currently, the country has nine manufacturers of solar cells and about 20 module manufacturers, but no current silicon feedstock or wafer manufacturing is happening in India.
Some prominent solar cell manufacturers include Tata BP Solar, Reliance Industries, Moser Baer, Gautam Polymers and Signet Solar. Realising the potential of the solar energy market, solar brands are competing with each other in various segments of solar products. However, majority of the players in the solar market are importing products and selling them under their own brand names.
Latest products & technology
Many companies have come up with innovative products to meet various household and business requirements. Many big and small companies that are involved in this domain are Scone Solar Systems, DD Berg Project Consultants Pvt Ltd, Regnant Energy Solutions, EPL India Ltd, Artheon Group, etc. Majority of the products that are available in the market fall under heating and lighting purposes.
Although the solar PV technology is common in all products, pushed by fierce competition, players are trying to bring in innovations. For instance, Regnant has developed a range of three LED solar lanterns, which will be launched soon. “These products, developed under the brand name Regnant, have inbuilt rechargeable and eco-friendly cells in two of them. We do extensive inhouse R&D before launching a product,” says Praveen Kumar Sood, chairman.
The solar PV technology can be used in lighting applications like street lighting, indoor lighting, compound lighting, garden lighting, home lighting, solar lanterns, solar pumping systems, solar traffic police kiosk, solar traffic signalling systems, etc.
Similarly, solar thermal technology can be used for solar domestic water heaters, solar industrial heating systems, swimming pool heating systems, industrial pre-boiler feed, cooking, bathing, laundry, solar water pasteurisers, etc.
There are numerous benefits of using solar heating and power products which can range from environmental to financial. “Solar products offer superior lighting at least cost as compared to other form of energy like dry cell batteries, recharging car batteries, etc. Solar electricity is also cheaper as compared to any other form of energy as only startup cost is involved, afterwards it starts paying off. Easy installation of solar systems, especially outdoor solar lights and outdoor solar water features, makes it convenient for users to install and require no wiring,” says Sanjeev Arora, managing director, EPL India Ltd.
Other environmental benefits are:
- Low heating and maintenance costs
- Some systems can operate in a wide range of weather conditions by extracting heat energy
- Solar hot water systems generate water from the ambient air (as low as -10°C) and can heat water to +70°C
- Reduce CO2 emissions and electricity consumption
- Very effective in areas where mains power availability is limited
- Easy to instal
Some of the popular products
Domestic solar water heating systems: Tata BP Solar has introduced a new model of solar water heater named Hot Max. According to company sources, the energy efficient product uses evacuated tube technology and has specially coated glass tubes to ensure availability of hot water on partially cloudy days. Its twin-pro feature provides double protection against harsh climate conditions. Its tubes made from borosilicate glass, withstand hail storms, is durable and prevents clogging. Hot Max has powder coated support structure for durability and works efficiently with hard water. It is compact and light weight, easy to install, operate and maintain.
Solar LED streetlight: Solar streetlight is a cost effective lighting system for streets, squares, village assembly place not supplied with electricity. These use LED instead of conventional CFL lamps. LEDs give light for much longer duration than the CFL lamps and last for more than 10 years.
Solar water pumping system: Solar water pump systems are ideal for providing reliable solutions for water delivery applications such as potable water, irrigation and livestock watering. These PV systems do not require fuel or constant maintenance and can be designed for portability to be moved as water demand or the change of seasons requires.
Solar fridge: Solar fridge are operated completely with solar energy and helps reduce monthly electricity bill. The product is perfect for applications where there is no power supply, like cabins, boats or other types of off-grid homes. It is perfect for refrigerating medical supplies which need to be kept cold at all times as it can be operated during a power failure. Steca Bergen Solar Products Pvt Ltd has introduced a solar fridge model named Steca PF-166 12V/24V.
According to Javed, solar fridge is a new generation DC energy saving refrigerators, which can be used as either refrigerators or freezers. The fridge is fully programmable, where the inside temperature and other configuration values can be set by users. The fridge has the European standards (CE) certification, is RoHS compliant, CFC-free (R-134a) and is manufactured according to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
Electronic protection functions include reverse polarity protection, deep discharge protection, power breakdown display and temperature alarm. It has multifunctional LED display and digital temperature display. Operations are adjustable by use of buttons.
Solar mobile charger: Solar mobile charger can charge brands of solar mobile phones available in the market. They are elegantly designed and portable. Once fully charged, the builtin-Ni-Cd battery can fully charge the mobile one to two times. The average charging time is 2-3 hours to fully charge the mobile.
Solar air conditioning: Solar air conditioning uses solar thermal energy technology. Sharda Inventions Pvt Ltd, one of the companies of Atheon Group, has introduced a solar air conditioner which works on solar thermal principal and does not need any electricity.
According to Anil Joshi, assistant general manager, Atheon Group, apart from delivering cool and clean air, the AC also helps in reducing carbon footprint. As it does not require moving parts and compressor, it’s maintenance cost is low. With 100 per cent ecofriendly design, it is an effective step to protect ozone depletion.
Milky white LED lanterns: Milky white LEDs save upto 80 per cent power. Radha Energy Cell has introduced imported milky white LED lanterns in the Indian market. The LED lantern has aluminum colour body, with 36 high frequency imported milky white LEDs. Its output is around1500 mcd per LED and light output of nearly 22 lux. It comes with 6V/4.0 ah smf battery having charging time of 5-6 hours. The product’s operation time is 5 hours.
Solar egg incubators: A solar powered kit for incubating eggs is useful for household and backyard poultry farmers. L-Ramp has introduced solar egg Incubators. According to sources, the use of solar energy technology and its convenient size makes the product ideal for the household poultry industry. It greatly increases the earning potential of small scale egg producers, who have no mechanised way of incubating eggs other than hatching by breeder hens. It is an easily accessible technology for poultry farmers to incubate eggs using a free resource.
Solar LED lantern: Gautam Polymers, one of the India’s largest solar lights manufacturer, has introduced a solar LED lantern under the brand name of Solid Multilight. Mohanka, says, “These are patented solar LED lanterns, which are designed keeping in mind the end users in Indian condition. Its R&D and manufacturing is completely inhouse in India.”
Solid Multi lantern can be used as general surround lighting, focused study lighting, as handheld torch, handheld downward lantern and roof mounting light. The lantern has an easy battery in-out; the battery can be separately transported and can easily be installed by any non-technical person at the usage point. This not only reduces the breakage but also the initial battery deep-discharge failure. It is a plug and play system which makes its installation very easy. The technology used is zero fadeTM LED technology and eye safe TM lenses that protect eyes from direct glare of LEDs. Both of these technologies are proprietary to Gautam Polymers.
Regnant has developed lantern with 4k LED (mini lantern), 22k LED, 48k LED. These lantern come with a small panel to charge them and an ancillery—a flash light. The lanterns have a output to charge other devices. The battery charging time is 6-8 hours.
Solar technology is constantly improving. Solar products have evolved as safe, clean and easy to operate with no maintenance cost. Promotion of solar power will do wonders for India’s energy sector and can put the country on the fast economic growth like IT and telecommunication. We have a dedicated ministry for new and renewable energy and the government should encourage this segment by setting up new laboratories, universities, introducing special incentive schemes and brining awareness among the masses about the benefits of solar energy.
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine