Solar Appreciation Day 2022: Here’re Some Unique Use of Solar Technologies Worldwide to Combat Energy Crisis
India’s budget for FY2022-23 clearly highlights the country’s priority to double down for ‘green’ and renewable energy, particularly solar, to combat climate change and meet the emission reduction targets set for 2030.
Moreover, as the Ukraine-Russia war continues, coal and natural gas prices are surging sharply across the globe. With the soaring power bills, several European and Asian countries are seeking alternatives to Russian supplies. And using technologies based on solar energy is a comparative quick fix to the energy crisis.
Meanwhile, Solar Appreciation Day 2022 is here, which is celebrated globally on every second Friday of March. The day has become all the more significant amid the ongoing climate and energy crisis. On this day, here are some unique solar technologies that demonstrate the immense potential of solar technologies to address the needs of the modern world.
Solar trolley invented by a farmer from Haryana
Pradeep Kumar, a farmer from Haryana, has built a mobile solar plant with panels mounted on a trolley that can be moved on demand. The trolley is custom made as per the user’s requirements.
In an interview with The Better India, Pradeep said, “the devices come in two sizes and carry solar panels which provide electricity of 2 HP and 10 HP. The trolley can also be mounted to the back of a tractor and has sturdy wheels that allow it to move over uneven surfaces.”
The cost-effective technology has benefitted over 2000 farmers so far.
Bihar’s floating solar power plant
The Mithila region in North Bihar is called the ‘Land of Ponds’ and is taking complete advantage of its gift. A floating solar plant is set to be commissioned in the region, consisting of 4,004 solar modules. Each module lodged in a pond can generate 505-megawatt peak (MWp) electricity and nearly 2 MW of green and clean energy. The plant can supply electricity to 10,000 people in the state.
The main benefit of a floating solar power plant is that the water cools the solar panels, ensuring their efficiency when temperatures rise, resulting in increased power generation. It also minimises evoporation of freshwater and aids fishery.
This innovation has hit two birds with one stone: producing green energy from solar panels and promoting fish farming underwater.
South Korea’s solar shade
In South Korea, a highway runs between Daejon and Sejong and its entire bike lane on the 32 km stretch is covered with solar roof panels. Not only do they generate sufficient electricity, but they also isolate cyclists from traffic and protect them from the sun.
The two-way bike lane is constructed right in the middle of the road, while there are three other lanes for vehicles to travel on either side. This also obstructs the high beam lights of oncoming cars.
Using the technology, the country can intern produce clean, renewable energy.
Solar-powered desalination technique by Chinese and American researchers
Desalination process is considered to be among the most energy-intensive activities. Now researchers have developed a solar desalination process that can treat contaminated water and generate steam for sterilizing medical instruments without requiring any power source other than sunlight itself.
The design includes a dark material that absorbs the sun’s heat and a thin water layer above a perforated material that sits atop a deep reservoir of salty water such as a tank or a pond. The holes allow for a natural convective circulation between the warmer upper layer of water and the colder reservoir below and draw the salt from the water.
Not only is the solar-powered desalination method efficient but also highly cost-effective.
Saudi Arabia’s goal of sustainable development using solar technology
Dry-climate arid regions are prone to droughts and often face water scarcity. While local food production would have been a distant dream for countries that host mostly deserts, scientists in Saudi Arabia have developed a unique solution using solar technology.
In an experiment, they designed a solar-driven system that could successfully cultivate spinach using water drawn from the air while producing electricity. This proof-of-concept design has demonstrated a sustainable, low-cost strategy to improve food and water security for people living in dry-climate regions.
“Our goal is to create an integrated system of clean energy, water, and food production, especially the water-creation part in our design, which sets us apart from current agrophotovoltaics,” says senior researcher Peng Wang.
Greening deserts in which India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push could be a good inspiring move for all those countries of the MENA region. An initiative commensurate with this country’s Prime Minister’s words at the COP26.
Greening deserts: India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push.
The image above is of The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say. Image by Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images
The arid state of Rajasthan sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution
As camels munch on the fringes of Thar desert, an oasis of blue solar panels stretches further than the eye can see at Bhadla Park—a cornerstone of India’s bid to become a clean energy powerhouse. Currently, coal powers 70 percent of the nation’s electricity generation, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged that by 2030, India will produce more energy through solar and other renewables than its entire grid now.
“First, India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts… Second, by 2030, 50 percent of our energy requirements will come from renewable resources,” Modi told the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say.
Once an expanse of desert, authorities have capitalised on the sparsely populated area, claiming minimal displacement of local communities. Today robots clean dust and sand off an estimated 10 million solar panels, while a few hundred humans monitor.
This pursuit of a greener future is fuelled by necessity.
India, home to 1.3 billion people and poised to overtake China as the most populous country, has a growing and voracious appetite for energy—but it is also on the frontline of climate change.
In the next two decades, it has to add a power system the size of Europe’s to meet demand for its swelling population, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), but it also has to tackle toxic air quality in its big cities.
“India is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world for climate change and that is why it has this big push on renewables to decarbonise the power sector, but also reduce air pollution,” Arunabha Ghosh, climate policy expert from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, told AFP.
But experts say the country—the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter—is some way from reaching its green targets, with coal set to remain a key part of the energy mix in the coming years.
Although India’s green energy has increased five-fold in just over a decade to 100GW this year, the sector now needs to grow by the same proportion again to meet its 2030 goals.
“I believe this is more of an aspirational target… to show to the world that we are moving in the right direction,” Vinay Rustagi from renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India, told AFP.
“But it would be a big stretch and seems highly unrealistic, in view of various demand and supply challenges,” Rustagi said.
Proponents point to Bhadla Solar Park, one of the largest in the world, as an example of how innovation, technology, and public and private finance can drive swift change.
“We’ve huge chunks of land where there’s not a blade of grass. Now you don’t see the ground anymore. You just see solar panels. It’s such a huge transformation,” Subodh Agarwal, Rajasthan’s additional chief secretary for energy, told AFP.
Authorities are incentivising renewables firms to set up in the region, known as the “desert state”. Agarwal says demand has “accelerated” since 2019.
“It will be a different Rajasthan. It will be the solar state,” he said of the next decade.
If this surge is sustained then coal-fired power for electricity generation could peak by 2024, according to Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) projections.
Currently, solar power accounts for four percent of electricity generation. Before Modi’s announcement the IEA estimated solar and coal will converge at around 30 percent each by 2040 based on current policies.
India’s billionaires, including Asia’s two richest men Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, are pledging huge investments, while Modi is setting up a renewables park the size of Singapore in his home state of Gujarat.
Show me the money
But reshaping an entire power network takes time and money, analysts warn.
“India expects developed countries to provide climate finance of $1 trillion at the earliest. Today it is necessary that as we track the progress made in climate mitigation, we should also track climate finance,” he told more than 120 leaders at the critical talks.
Farmer and doctor Amit Singh’s three-acre family farmland in Rajasthan’s Bhaloji village was running out of water and hit by frequent power outages.
“I always saw the sun and its rays and wondered… why not harness it to generate electricity?,” he said.
Singh first installed rooftop panels at his small hospital which generated half of its energy needs.
He then invested family savings into a government-linked project on his land.
The mini-solar farm cost 35 million rupees ($450,000) and Singh sells electricity to the grid for 400,000 rupees a month.
“It’s the ultimate source of energy, which is otherwise going to waste… I feel I’m contributing to the developmental needs of my village,” he added.
Ghosh said it was vital to bring down costs.
“When a farmer is able to generate power from their solar plant near their farm and pump out water—we are then able to bring the energy transition closer to the people,” he added.
Pratibha Pai, the founder-director of Chirag Rural Development Foundation which has brought solar to more than 100,000 villagers, believes in clean energy’s transformative role.
She said: “We start with solar power… we end with safe drinking water, power for dark village roads, power for little rural schools which will hopefully script the story of a ‘big’ India.”
Innovators in Indonesia advancing renewable energy as per the Indonesian government strategy that is pushing to almost triple, shortly, the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix. Let us see how.
The Indonesian government promises to almost triple the share of renewables in its energy mix in the next three years. That would reverse an investment climate in which fossil fuels saw 3 times more capital than renewable energy between 2016 and 2019. It would also require the nation’s monopoly power provider, Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), to approve new projects at a rate that entrepreneurs don’t expect now. Moreover, all the distribution to customers is strictly handled by the state-owned company.
Accordingly, entrepreneurs work with global networks to improve the state’s literacy and risk appetite. One network is the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator. The CEIA works as a joint endeavor coordinated by Allotrope Partners, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to accelerate renewable energy solutions for large electricity consumers in key emerging markets. CEIA brings together corporate buyers in Indonesia and magnifies their joint ideas to develop an enabling regulatory environment for accelerating renewable energy investment and use.
“How renewable energy fluctuates were claimed to be the greatest risk by potential investors to Indonesia,” says Rio Pramudita, a business development analyst for developer Akuo Energy. Because of the intermittent nature of renewable energy, the state-owned company must be ready to supply the client if renewable energy is unavailable. “Renewable energy faced some hurdles because they have to ‘pay’ for the uncertainty that PLN has to bear,” says Pramudita. In that context, a range of partners use a range of tools to promote the country’s renewable ecosystem.
Can renewable energy thrive in Indonesia’s current energy landscape?
Since its inception in 2018, CEIA has formed a taskforce in Indonesia that comprised of more than 25 corporate buyers. These corporate buyers are global firms with operations in Indonesia. They are among the companies who wish to source their energy from renewable sources but have discovered there is limited supply.There are reasons to discern a clean-energy economy growth curve in the country.
Independent Power Producers (IPP) that generate renewable energy remain limited in Indonesia. Currently, they supply 26 percent of national energy, and most lack transmission and distribution connections to sell energy directly to end users. Building distribution lines, of course, is expensive: The other option is to lease existing ones through PLN. “Transmission and distribution lines are a strategic asset of the state,” says Gina Lisdiani, director of Allotrope Partners Indonesia, part of the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator Indonesia.
“Because Indonesia is an archipelago, this transmission and distribution network becomes even more critical,” adds Lisdiani.
Although this means that IPPs generally cannot sell directly to end consumers, or be off the grid, some companies in Indonesia use their own solar panels to operate their factories and manufacturing facilities. For example, PT. Coca Cola Amatil Indonesia has this kind of solar panel arrangement with a capacity of 7.13 MW. However, an arrangement such as this is not completely off the grid. If something goes wrong and the supply falls below what the factory requires to run, PLN would supply electricity to the factory.
If industry has more supply than it needs (such as during the Eid Mubarak vacation period), they can sell it to PLN, a practice known as net metering. PLN smiles on this innovation, perhaps because it improves electrical supply without requiring new investment. “Net metering exists in Indonesia. In some cases, the PLN can reduce the price by roughly 35 percent. The process for obtaining a permit, or simply determining whether it is possible, is not uniform and depends on the location and permit by PLN regional office in the area,” adds Lisdiani.
Private-sector renewable energy purchasing
For generating and distributing renewable energy without running into the corruption that comes with permits, CEIA has worked with PLN to create and disseminate a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). “It is hoped that it could serve as a catalyst for PLN to build and/or permit more renewable energy projects,” says Lisdiani.
Renewable energy certificates provide a simple way for businesses, institutions and individuals to offset their carbon footprint and support renewable energy. As more companies proclaim commitment to climate action and renewable energy, purchasing RECs allows businesses to source their energy from renewable sources. When demand rises, the possibility to create renewable energy power plants rises with it.
“They [corporate buyers] are also concerned about whether a renewable energy power plant has reached its break-even point. They would rather fund and incentivize generation that is not yet profitable [so they can realize higher returns in the future]. This is critical in order to assist project developers who wish to launch a renewable energy project in Indonesia,” Lisdiani says.
These enabling conditions and potential incentives are essential for project developers from the start of the project. “A new project developer without a portfolio will face enormous challenges. One of them is obtaining financing from a bank,” Lisdiani explains. “And REC has the opportunity to play a significant role in resolving some of the issues.”
The first solar off-grid system in Indonesia to serve communities
Despite hurdles, there are reasons to discern a clean-energy economy growth curve in the country. Akuo Energy, a renewable energy developer, has developed the first solar off-grid electrification systems that powers three villages in Berau, Kalimantan.
Because Akuo Energy is off-grid, it both generates and distributes energy directly to customers without running through the state pricing system. This project was mostly funded by the Millennium Account Challenge Indonesia and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The solar off-grid is managed by a joint venture between Akuo Energy and the village-owned company (Badan Usaha milik Desa; Bumdes), with the latter owning the majority.One common misconception is that since Indonesia is a tropical country situated on the Equator, we would have been able to deploy solar energy everywhere.
The joint venture was able to obtain the required permit by presenting their project in front of the ministry, emphasizing the importance of electricity access in these three villages and how their distance from the transmission line is so far that the state-owned company cannot benefit from it. There is also a regulation that restricts the price they may charge customers; the ceiling is the price set by the state-owned company. If the joint venture wishes to raise the price above what the state-owned company has set, they must present the case to the Regional House Representative with rigorous justification.
“One common misconception is that since Indonesia is a tropical country situated on the Equator, we would have been able to deploy solar energy everywhere,” says Pramudita, who trained as a mechanical engineer. “There is a lot of heat in Indonesia, but what we need for solar panels are photons. As a result, different renewable energy technologies would be appropriate in different parts of Indonesia.”
Some parts of Indonesia are cloudy most of the year, while others are not. East Nusa Tenggara is one of the few places in the world where it is never cloudy. “Other locations such as some parts of Sumatera, the south coast of Papua, and West Java are not suitable for solar panels but are suitable for wind turbines,” explains Pramudita. Indeed, a study shows that Sukabumi and Garut, in West Java, are among the potential sites for wind turbines.
In a challenging environment, organizations and businesses such as these show a way forward. CEIA brings together renewable energy buyers and consolidates a unified voice to the government, whereas Akuo Energy is able to operate off-grid solar panels. This demonstrates a few of the opportunities for patient renewable energy investment in Indonesia.
Solar Panels are an effective and low-maintenance way to generate your own renewable energy. Here’s why you should consider installing them on your roof!
Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?
With energy prices rising to pre-pandemic levels, many of us have noticed that our energy bills have begun to rise in recent weeks. And if you’ve been with the same energy supplier for a long time, you’re likely on a standard variable tariff. Which means that if your energy costs haven’t increased in recent weeks, they’re likely to in the near future.
Now’s the perfect time to consider investing in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Today’s investment could result in decades of savings, add value to your home, and help you to drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Solar power is on the rise in the MENA region, with investment reaching $1 trillion in the 2019-23 period in the region. Here we’ll look at some of the reasons why you should consider installing them on your roof.
Can solar panels really save me money?
Absolutely! Switch-Plan estimates that by installing solar panels, you can save anywhere from £85-£200 per year GBP with a full solar array. Depending on the size of your solar array and the daylight hours in your region, your solar array could become profitable in less than 10 years. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you may be able to install your own solar panels, drastically reducing your costs.
As the solar market in the area grows, and becomes more competitive, households have more options than ever.
Don’t solar panels only work on sunny days?
The MENA region is known for its hot and sunny climate. But solar panels still work on cloudy, rainy and overcast days. As long as the sun shines in the sky, your PV solar panels will generate energy for your home.
Want to generate energy through the night as well? Solar arrays can be combined with domestic wind turbines to create hybrid systems that generate energy through the day and night.
Would you like your energy company to pay you?
Around 50% of the energy generated by your solar panels throughout the day is fed back into the grid. The good news is that your energy companies can pay you for this via Feed in Tariffs. These pay a flat rate per kWh of energy generated which can further offset the cost of the grid energy you use.
You’ve paid your energy company enough over the years. Isn’t it time they started paying you?
Combine energy tariffs with Feed In Tariffs to optimise savings
It’s important to note that you don’t have to use the same company for your energy tariff and your Feed in Tariff. By comparing energy plans and FiTs from different companies, you can optimise your savings, offsetting the cost of your installation and helping it to become profitable faster. All while helping to reduce the MENA region’s reliance on fossil fuels and pave the way for a renewable future.
Solar operations and maintenance company Alectris has completed a project to automate asset management activity at a photovoltaic plant in Jordan.
Alectris implemented the initiative at the 11.5MW facility with MASE, a solar O&M provider in the Middle East.
The partnership between Alectris and MASE aims to automate and standardise asset management activity across new solar projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
As solar development has increased in the MENA region, O&M and asset management has “struggled to keep pace”, limiting long-term productivity prospects, said Alectris.
The partnership began in 2016 with MASE responsible for field operations and maintenance services on location, while Alectris provided operations and “legacy expertise” in global asset care.
“Working together, both businesses successfully improved the bankability of the project, which was financed by key development finance institutions operating across the region,” said Alectris.
The initiative involved the integration of Alectris’ ACTIS software platform for solar PV plant asset management, with all data monitoring streams gathered under the single platform to “improve oversight” into project activity.
Alectris managing director Vassilis Papaeconomou said: “Solar development in the MENA region offers a significant opportunity to invest in clean energy projects.
“But if this market momentum is to be maintained, it is imperative that operating plants offer security and stability of financial returns. By partnering with MASE, we’ve been jointly able to combine the latest in asset management software with leading experience in services activity.
“This will ensure that project owners and investors benefit from enhanced and efficient performance reporting and operational management, saving time, reducing costs and ensuring the plant delivers at its optimum. As a result, the plant delivered above expectations with an excellent performance ratio and availability close to 100% over the last three years.”
MASE chief executive Tareq Khalifeh added: “Throughout this collaboration, Alectris have proved to be reliable, dedicated and experienced with a wealth of knowledge that has been indispensable when working in an exciting but challenging market.”
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