Solar future not a far away dream

Shreenesh Raman

After the massive sales of Inverters, Solar panels aregetting ready to make inroads in the state which is reeling under massive power crisis with shortfall upto 4000MW. The adoption of solar power is slowly picking up with the early adopters being commercial establishments.

This report analyses the impact created by solar power after the state government announced its solar policy with a fanfare recently aiming to generate around 3000MW by 2015.

In Thanjaur district, the primary people most affected by the power cuts are farmers who are unable to operate their pumps as water is not available in the rivers.

Arokia Stalin a solar power and inverter vendor in Thanjavur says, "The newly annouced solar policy has created a buzz among people in the district and hope to see more sales in future." Earlier solar panel sales would be rare. But now the enquiries has gone up from commercial sector. The domestic sector will witness a sea of change in sales only when the governmet comes with an attractive subsidy.

Technical aspects
Explaining the technicalities he said, there are two types of systems that can be deployed 
namely ongrid and offgrid system.

Off grid system
People who already own an inverter can retain the same and can invest only on solar panels according to their needs. But for domestic needs, a one kWh panel would be sufficient to power fan, tube lights and other light equipment's.

The existing inverter at a customer premise needs a hybrid switch that converts and controls power from the panel to the battery. The power generated by the panels will be stored in the battery which act as a backup during power cuts.

On grid system
On the other hand commercial establishments like offices, education institutioms go for 'on grid' power system.

This system is expensive compared to the residential system. This system lacks a battery as in case of the off grid system. Power generated by the solar panel is directly fed to equipment's there by eliminating the need for a TNEB power supply. But, the panel number goes up in this case with a minimum capacity of 10kWh panels, says stalin.

Unlike other backup power systems, solar does not come cheap. However it is considered as an one time investment, says Ravikumar a renewable energy engineer here.

The Minsitry of New and Renewable Energy resource (MNRE) through its national solar mission has already began its subsidy program. However, the mechanism is not efficient as the process to get a subsidy is indeed a tedious process.

Bankers like IOB, NABARD are ready to support the new renewable energy initiative. Recently speaking a conference for solar power, IOB chief regional Manager S Raghu Vatsachari said, we can proceed if the government is able to deliver a viable subsidy system, 
else banks will be exposed to bad credit.

Reiterating similar views, NABARD bank official said, the banks would support solar projects in both rural and urban areas for both domestic and commercial sector.
PSU banks are ready to offer loans at 5 percent interest from Rs 30,000 to 10 lakh for domestic purpose and Rs 1 to 10 lakh for commercial purpose.

However, the banks are afraid to venture due to the low recovery amount if a customer fails to repay his interest. According to Stalin, banks have no use by recovering the battery which has a life of 10 years and inverters which are prone to repairs.

Panel sourcing
In India, traders as well as panel manufacturers source the raw solar cells from two countries namely China and Germany. Thus the customer is in a position to choose which panel need to be installed. The main cost in installing the solar power backup goes to the panels.

The panel made of raw materials sourced from Germany are more efficient compared to their Chinese counterparts. In India major panel fabricating hubs are in Bengaluru and Noida.

Cost Warranty and After sale service
An average household installation would cost between Rs 1.3 to 1.7 lakh including the five year service assurance.

Revealing on the warranty of panels he said, the Chinese made has 15 years of life and 10 years of guarantee. However, German made attracts 25 years of life and 20 years of guarantee.

The installation of a 1 kW panel panel costs Rs 1.5 lakh with subsidy and Rs 2.3 lakh without subsidy. The vendor will take care of the installation and service. Beyond the service customers can go for Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC).

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