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IISc researchers map hot spots to set up solar power plants in India

As Panchabuta has earlier reported, the government is augmenting solar radiation resource assessment in the country.
“C-WET has been assigned the task of solar radiation monitoring. We are looking at setting up 50 ground monitoring stations in co-operation with states,” Deepak Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had recently said.

According to recent reports, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, are mapping India’s solar hot spots—where round-the-year sunlight makes it viable for companies to set up solar power plants.The study can play a crucial role in enhancing India’s energy supply.

In the first phase of the study, supported by the environment ministry and being conducted at IISc’s Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), researchers have mapped states and regions with an abundance of sunlight.

“We have mapped the states that will have sunlight throughout the year, which will guide a business firm to set up a plant,” said T.V. Ramachandra, a faculty member at CES and the project’s guide.

CES will carry out district-level mapping in the next phase.

Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka have been identified as the states that receive enough sunlight throughout the year to merit large commercial solar plants.

“Coastal parts of Kerala, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are ideal states to set up small plants for domestic use, like solar cooker and solar water heater,” Ramachandra said.

Rishabh Jain, a member of the research group, said most other states and metro cities receive sunlight only during the summer.

“Hence, those places are not favourable. For instance, Delhi is the hottest in summer, but the winters do not receive (enough) sunlight,” he said.

The researchers used radiation data from US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s records.

Surface meteorology and solar energy data sets provided monthly average radiation data for 22 years—July 1983 to June 2005.

Solar potential maps, depicting monthly variations over the topography of India, were obtained using the geographical information system for mapping.

“While solar technology is improving, it is imperative to estimate the solar energy available over the land surface. We have only 45 solar radiation stations spread across the vastness of the country to give authentic ground measurement of the radiation. This sparse network cannot provide the data for the whole country,” Ramachandra said.

India’s location in the global solar belt—which lies between the 40 degrees north and 40 degrees south latitudes— makes it ideal for harnessing solar energy, said Jain.

The country, he said, receives sunlight in abundance for more than 300 days of the year.

Lalit Jain, chief operating officer, Moser Baer Clean Energy Ltd, said that in the absence of reliable data, energy generation estimates cannot be provided to banks, making it difficult to launch solar power projects.

“It also increases risks for the investors, and high interest rates increase the cost of generation…This kind of mapping will help the industry,” he said. “However, we require last 20 years’ radiation data along with data for weather conditions, which is required to assess energy generation at various sites.”

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