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As grids trip, India govt focuses on solar power

According to reports, numerous states of India recently plunged into darkness as the power grids across North and North East India crashed. Could there be an alternative to avoid such a prospect? Scientists at the Ministry of New And Renewable Energy are now trying out new ways of lighting and cooling your home.

At the Solar Energy Centre in Gurgaon, scientists make hay while the sun shines. Or rather – they make energy.

At the power plant, a huge reflective dish-like surface collects the suns rays, focusing them onto the centre. At the hub, is something called a Sterling Engine. It’s filled with gas and the gas expands with heat, which makes a piston move. There’s machinery inside which converts that mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Each of the units generates some 3 KW of electricity – enough for a small home.

Similarly, there is a solar power run air conditioner and a water heater that heats water up to 210 degree centigrade. That superhot water is then piped into a machine full of coils filled with lithium bromide, a refrigerant, and more water. That water boils, turns into vapour, is condensed and made to evaporate again. When water evaporates, it absorbs heat, and in doing so, it cools the piping inside to almost seven degree centigrade. That chilled water is circulated to all the rooms in the buildings to cool them.

Meanwhile, an industrial chilling unit freezes and stores up to twenty tonnes of fruit and vegetables. It’s the only one in the world that uses heat from the sun, from gas made from farm waste and even engine exhaust, to work round the clock. And this is just what villages without electricity need to protect their harvest.

Says, SK Singh, Director, Solar Energy Centre, “Almost 30 per cent of our farm produce is wasted because there’s no cold storage chain. This machine can help turn around our village economy.”

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