Solar Energy Harvestation Reaching New Heights in Kerala
As is popularly known, India has around 300 clear, sunny days in a year. If harvested, solar energy in India can be calculated (in theory) to be 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year on the basis of land area. The availability of solar energy thus actually exceeds the entirety of fossil fuel energy reserve outputs in India and even outstrips demand.
The National Institute of Solar Energy estimates reflect India’s solar power potential at 749 GW. There has been growth in installed solar power capacity from the year 2010 of 14MW to the year 2015 of 3,744 MW.
At present however, a study by Deloitte and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) reflects that less than one percent of solar energy potential has been harnessed.
By 2020, there are plans to add 100,000 MW in solar power capacity. The target is to reach 20W by 2022 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) scheme.
With available technologies which are commercially tested, on a daily basis, a solar power plan can generate 0.2kWH per m2. In terms of operating hours in a year, this is equivalent 1,500-2,000 peak rated capacity.
Of all Indian states, Cochin International Airport in Kerala has been a World Leader in terms of harnessing solar energy. It is the first airport in the entire World that is completely operating on solar power. Solar Power in Kerala is a strong State Government mandate dating back to 2002. Kerala was one of the very first states to put together a very comprehensive renewable energy policy. The commitment is reiterated and fleshed out in further detail in the Kerala Solar Energy Policy 2013. The policies are supported by government orders regarding land allocation for renewable energy projects and related regulations.
But the highly progressive state hasn’t stopped at that. The beautiful, tourist attracting backwaters of Kerala will be home to the country’s most extensive and by far the largest solar powered ferry. This will ferry passengers and vehicles. The points are Vaikom and Thavanakadavu in Alappuzha.
Completely viable commercially, this solar ferry is huge. A good estimate of its size would be to imagine four buses arranged in a matrix form. While the initial cost is higher than ferries that are diesel powered, as is true of all solar energy run vehicles, the extra cost can be recovered in around three years time, assures its builder.
What is most important however is that besides being renewable and environment friendly, the solar ferries cut down running costs drastically.
For instance as opposed to the diesel ferries of the same capacity priced at Rs. 1.5 crore, the solar ferries cost Rs. 2.5 crore. However, the maintenance cost of diesel ferries add up to around Rs. 30 lakh each year including fuel and maintenance costs. Contrary to this, solar ferries cost for daily charging (of grids) adds up to only Rs. 1.4 lakh per year. Every 5 years, the battery has to be replaced at a cost of Rs. 30 lakh. Thus, on an average, the cost of maintenance of a solar ferry is Rs.6.4 lakh per year.
The Solar Ferry is clearly a peek into a sustainable future. And Kerala is once again leading India on a mission to revolutionize how we see power and energy resources.
[Image Courtesy - IBN Live]