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Turning Mumbai into a solar city

According to reports, the geographical location of Mumbai provides the city with almost 300 days of sunlight in a year, making sun the most abundantly available source of energy that we are yet to tap into.

The ministry of new and renewable energy launched a comprehensive solar plan for 60 cities called the ‘Solar Cities Initiative’, which aims at conversion of 10% of electricity produced to renewable means. Despite being the largest consumer of power in the state, Mumbai is not a part of this initiative.

Independent think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF), along with a few local bodies, has submitted a proposal to the central and state authorities for the ‘Mumbai Solar Mission’, which suggests interesting options the government can undertake to incorporate solar energy into the city’s power scheme.

“We have no dearth of sunlight. Germany is known to have taken up renewable energy on a warpath, but we should have beaten this country which has an average of 72 days’ sunlight a year. The government has to create a comprehensive framework to introduce solar energy in the city, but, in the meantime, it can encourage smaller projects for individual consumption,” said Rishi Agarwal, research fellow at the ORF and a contributor to the proposal.

The proposal primarily highlights the numerous sun-exposed areas in the city, such as government/municipal buildings, railway stations, bus stations, residential and commercial buildings with large roof areas, for solar installations. It also suggests attractive subsidies and incentives to private organisations, slum dwellers and residential buildings to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for their own use.

The financial capital of India is one of the few cities that can afford installation of solar PV panels, yet solar constitutes less than 0.1% of the total energy produced here. A solar installation requires a one-time expenditure on equipment that pays back in the form of electricity savings over the years.

“The cost of electricity is about Rs7 per unit right now and solar is almost there. A 1 KW solar installation would cost about Rs80,000 on an average, which has a life of 25 years. In the first five years, you get what you spent back in terms of electricity savings and then it (power) can be considered free for the remaining 20 years,” explained Aditya Khandekar, researcher at ORF and the other contributor to the proposal.

Agarwal said, “Electricity tariffs are only rising and we should start experimenting with other renewable options in case we need to adopt it on a large scale later.”

Mumbai’s energy demands approximately touch 3,000MW per year, which constitutes a major part of Maharashtra’s energy consumption. The aim of Mumbai Solar Mission is to generate at least 10%, or 300MW, of this energy through renewable means.

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