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BHEL develops single axis solar thermal tracker for PV systems

BHEL is the largest engineering enterprise of its kind in India and one of the foremost companies in the international power arena. While its core competence is in the power sector, it also caters to other core sectors like; Industry, Transportation, Transmission, Oil & Gas, Defence and Renewable Energy. Its diverse manufacturing base supported by contemporary and unique manufacturing facilities gives it a competitive edge. With a product portfolio of over 180 products, BHEL has its foot print in over 70 countries.

BHEL has been a lot in the news lately for their announcements and developments in the solar space in India which is a welcome move.

Some of the recent initiatives covered by Panchabuta include their agreement with Abengoa Solar to develop CSP projects in India, their plans to  firm up a JVC with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), the defence PSU, to set up an integrated 250 Mw solar photovoltaic modules plant.

BHEL has also announced  that the Ramachandrapuram unit has created a separate division — Project Engineering and Systems Development —this financial year to exclusively cater to the growing demand for EPC contracts.

In a very interesting and important announcement, the corporate R&D unit of public sector Bharat Heavy Eletricals Limited (BHEL) in Hyderabad has developed a maintenance-free solar thermal sun tracker for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that requires no external electro mechanical fittings.

The system for 20 watt PV modules automatically tracks the sun from east to west in a single axis from morning to evening. It again automatically turns to east in the morning of next day, within 15-30 minutes from the time of sunrise, according to HS Jain, executive director, BHEL Corporate R&D.

The innovation has given 36 per cent more power output than fixed-tilt modules. This sun tracker works based on the heat generated due to the solar heating and the transfer of liquid between the containers placed at the extreme ends of the panels. Jain said the solar thermal tracker, though demonstrated successfully, is yet to reach the commercialisation stage.

The Corporate R&D, which is part of BHEL’s in-house R&D network across its units, had filed 68 intellectual property applications comprising 37 patent and 31 copyright applications during the year 2010-11.

A number of the tracker system companies including those from Spain, Europe and US that have spoken to Panchabuta have told us that they have found it very difficult to make successful sales in India. With this BHEL announcement, and with a number of new EPC companies coming out, it might be time for them to revisit their India strategy and plan better including  JVs in India which might be a more efficient way to approach the market.

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