According to reports, in Ajmer, Rajasthan a solar-powered reverse osmosis (RO) plant provides clean drinking water to 3,000 people in Kotri village that’s surrounded by the briny Sambhar Lake. And at a dairy farm in Latur, Maharashtra the sun’s heat is used to pasteurize milk. These are among the non-electricity applications of renewable energy featured in a report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) India and Council on Energy, Environment and Water ( CEEW) that was released on Thursday.
The report, RE+ Renewables Beyond Electricity, focuses on the untapped potential of some of these applications, including solar passive space heating that doesn’t require any mechanical equipment since heat gain and distribution happen through natural methods like radiation and convection. In Himachal Pradesh, more than 200 buildings use solar-passive designs.
Another interesting application is the solar box cooker that can cook food for 4-5 people in about 2.5 hours. It costs Rs 3,500-4,200, depending on features, and food cooked in it retains more nutrients like thiamine and vitamin C because of the lower temperature and slower cooking. Farmers can use solar food dryers to preserve onion, garlic, grapes, fish etc.
At the National Law University in Dwarka, Delhi 16 solar-thermal water heaters meet the needs of about 450 students. They cost Rs 50 lakh to install but are expected to recover the investment in 4-5 years by saving on electricity.
Satish Balram Agnihotri, secretary, ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) who launched the report, said, renewable energy is like a tripod with grid-connected power and off-grid renewable energy being two of its legs. Non-electricity applications are the third leg.
“But we haven’t managed to scale up these applications. Somebody asked me why we can’t have solar cookers for mid-day meals. It can be done, and we have to look at such large-scale expansions,” he said.