By Gayrajan Kohli
Solar PV is a simple technology that helps us save money, live sustainably, become energy-independent and greatly reduce our environmental burden
While financial profits are more easily discernible, solar’s greatest benefit is environmental. Solar panels last 20 to 35 years, and each kilowatt (kW) of solar panels helps offset our carbon emissions by 26 to 38 tonnes over the panel’s lifetime. This equates to approximately four cars taken off the road or 700 trees planted for every kW of solar installed (see Table 1).
Community owned solar systems are good solutions for those lacking roof ownership, such as apartment dwellers. Residents’ associations can install systems for powering common area lighting. The upcoming Electricity Act amendment may provide users with the option to have solar generated electricity fed directly into their homes
TABLE 1: EMISSION SAVINGS FROM SOLAR INSTALLATIONS IN INDIA TO DATE
|Installed to date: 4 GW = 4.8 billion kWh (units) of annual electricity|
|Impact (annually)||Quantification (in million)|
|Tonnes of carbon dioxide offset||4.2|
|Cars taken off the road||0.5|
|Gasoline saved (gallons)||436|
|Homes powered (Indian)||0.5|
|Light bulbs powered (40 W)||41|
Solar systems cost between Rs 70,000 and 130,000 per kW and various financing and leasing options are available. Depending on your energy consumption, you may need a1 to 10-kW system. Your energy requirements will determine the type of system to be installed (see Table 2).
A 1-kW system produces 4 to 6 units of electricity daily, requires 80 to 100 sq ft of unobstructed rooftop area and will weigh, at most, 100 kg. Installation is usually hassle free. The installer (or system integrator) will need to know your electricity consumption, rooftop characteristics (area, type, orientation, inclination, structural condition, etc), location and budget. Solar panels must face south at an angle defined by your geographical location for maximum output.
While system integrators are available nationwide, trustworthy ones are hard to find, thus you should be extremely careful when choosing one. Most companies are relatively new and do not have strong credentials. Only a handful have gathered enough expertise to deserve good reputations. You should also focus on the quality and maintenance of your systems. This is a 25‑year commitment after all.
Community owned solar systems are good solutions for those lacking roof ownership, such as apartment dwellers. Residents’ associations can install systems for powering common-area lighting. Additionally, the upcoming Electricity Act amendment may provide users with the option to have solar generated electricity fed directly into their homes.
Going solar is not difficult. For instance, the website www.IndiaGoesSolar.com provides the information you need to determine your requirements and make an informed decision, and hosts a curated list of quality solar products and active solar installers in your area.
TABLE 2: COMPARISON OF SOLAR SYSTEM TYPES FOR ROOFTOP INSTALLATIONS
|Investment returns depend on factors such as system type, local tariff, incentives encashed, etc|
|Definition||Integrated with central grid. Can draw electricity from the grid when panels are not working. However, grid must be functional for system to work. Net-metering capable||Produces electricity as long as the sun is available, even if the grid goes out. At night, switches to battery to provide electricity. No net-metering at present||Self-sufficient setup with no connection to the grid. Batteries for storage and backup. Net-metering not possible. Can replace or complement diesel power generation|
|Cost (per kW)||Rs 70,000 to 1 lac||Rs 80,000 to 1.3 lac||Rs 90,000 to 1.4 lac|
|Use||Urban||Urban/semi urban||Rural/areas without grid access|
|Current subsidies/incentives||15% central subsidy. Some States provide additional subsidies. Net-metering and other benefits||15% central subsidy. Some States provide additional subsidies||30% central subsidy. Some States provide additional subsidies|
|Break even period (Yrs)||5-10||7-10||2-10|
The author is Senior Manager-Consulting at BRIDGE TO INDIA, an Indian solar and cleantech-centric management consulting firm. He also operates IndiaGoesSolar.com, a consumer awareness initiative. He is passionate about solar energy and bullish on India’s solar future
This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India