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Kerala to have new initiatives in solar power segment soon

According to reports, the State is planning to launch a scheme to generate solar energy from roof-mounted grid-connected solar electric power systems. The scheme aims to generate electricity from solar panels fitted on rooftops and to sell the electricity thus generated to electric supply companies by feeding to the nearby distribution line. Similar schemes have been implemented in several countries such as US, Germany, Japan, Australia and Spain.

Kerala, with its shortage of power, availability of abundant sunshine, but with scarcity of huge tracts of land for solar photovoltaic or wind power plants, is looking at rooftop solar photovoltaic power plants as an alternative, according to Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (Anert) officials. The State is planning to launch a programme titled ‘10,000 Solar Homes’ in 2012-13 whereby 10,000 solar power plants of 1 kW capacity each (totalling 10 MW), would be installed as grid-tied power plants.

With increasing demand for power and limitations in harnessing hydroelectric, coal-fired and nuclear energy, there is an increased focus on renewable sources in general and solar energy in particular. While the National Solar Mission has envisaged higher outputs in the solar energy sector, high cost has been a major impediment. The Union government has been encouraging State governments to undertake initiatives in tune with the national policy. Several States such as Gujarat and Karnataka have already launched programmes aimed at harnessing solar energy. Kerala too is expected to take the plunge in this direction.

The Solar Mission announced by the Centre aims to drive down costs through technological innovation. The cost involved in the solar energy-based projects will depend on the scale of deployment as well as technology development and transfer.

As per assessments made by the solar mission, the price of electricity traded internally touched Rs.7 per unit for base loads and around Rs.8.50 per unit during peak periods.

The situation is bound to change with dependence on imported coal to meet the energy demand. Environmental degradation is also a matter of concern in coal-fired plants. The use of diesel-based electricity is both expensive and polluting.

It is against such a background that the mission concludes that solar imperative is urgent and feasible.

The national solar mission has adopted a three-phase approach, spanning the remaining period of the 11th Plan and the first year of the 12th Plan (up to 2012-13) as Phase 1, the remaining 4 years of the 12th Plan (2013-17) as Phase 2 and the 13th Plan (2017-22) as Phase 3.

The first phase will focus on off-grid systems to serve populations without access to commercial energy and modest capacity addition to grid-based systems. The stress in the second phase will be capacity addition.

The ultimate aim is to create an enabling policy framework for the deployment of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022 in the country.

The key driver for promoting solar power would be through a Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) mandated for power utilities, with a specific solar component. The solar purchase obligation will be gradually increased while the tariff fixed for solar power purchase will decline over time.

Currently, the bulk of India’s solar photovoltaic industry is dependent on imports of components including silicon wafers. Special incentives to promote photovoltaic manufacturing plants, including domestic manufacture of silicon material, would be necessary.

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