Monday, March 16, 2015

Terragreen In Conversation with Indradip Mitra: "Promoting Solar Energy" and MNRE's "Solar Mapping and Monitoring (SolMap)" project

Terragreen in Conversation: "Promoting Solar Energy" and GIZ-MNRE's "Solar Mapping and Monitoring (SolMap)" project

Dr.-Ing. Indradip Mitra is the Senior Technical Advisor of the project "Green Energy Corridors", and the Team Lead for the project, "Solar Mapping and Monitoring (SolMap)", Indo-German Energy Programme of German International Cooperation (GIZ). Shilpa Mohan in conversation with Dr.-Ing. Indradip Mitra for TerraGreen.


Solar power has been around for a long time. Why isn't it more mainstream and why don't more people use solar power for their homes?

Solar power, in its various forms, has been utilized throughout the world for a very long time. If we consider the electricity generation sector or heat usages, then it can be claimed that the use of solar power is not new. For example, Germany has 39 GWp of Solar Photovoltaic power (PV) connected to the electricity grids whereas India has now reached the level of 3 GWp and is growing. Solar hot water systems are quite popular in India and its use is increasing in the household sector too. Electricity generation through solar energy was mainly limited to offgrid applications for remote and rural areas until 2010. Since 2011, the grid connected central solar photovoltaic plants have been growing throughout the country. With technological maturity and availability of the product in the Indian market, energy experts are making an effort to spread awareness about solar power in India.


What is the potential of solar energy?

Very crudely, global primary energy consumption of 400 EJ/year can be met with 10 per cent conversion efficiency which means 200 W/m2 global irradiance from 0.1 per cent of earth's surface area or 0.35 per cent of earth's land surface area. However, there is a significant difference in the resource, technical, and economic potential. Solar radiation is not uniformly distributed over the globe. The demand of energy with specific kinds of pre-requisite quality of energy and the time of usage for the energy demand, vary across the world. The practical potential at the level of current technology and associated costs are dependent on many factors. It is quite a complex task to accurately determine such potential in quantitative form. Various organizations approximately estimate solar energy potential under specific assumptions.


A lot of people really want to know if they will recoup their upfront financial investment of installing solar power systems. Your comment.

This strongly depends on the solar energy radiation of the location concerned, costs of the solar energy system components, and the existing tariff structure of the baseline conventional power supply. In India, it can be said that with the average radiation level of our country, one can expect to get payback within a reasonable span of time.


Tell us about the concept of SolMap.

SolMap is a project financed by German Federal Ministry BUMB, which supports the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, to establish a network of solar radiation data monitoring units in India for a countrywide Solar Radiation Resource Assessment (SRRA) project. In SolMap project, Deutsche Gesellschaftf├╝r Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) supports National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) to develop a precise and value added database on solar radiation and other weather parameters which is crucial for making a national solar radiation atlas in the future. It also helps in transferring German experience and know-how in the field of solar resource assessment to India, through exchanges and cooperation involving relevant institutions and experts. Under this initiative, a network consisting of 121 nodes over all states in India monitoring solar radiation and associated parameters has been made operational and the data has been made available for public. SolMap is also implementing a benchmarking system on real life performance of grid connected solar PV plants in India. The project aspires to develop and test a benchmarking system for performance monitoring of solar electricity plants.


How did you come up with this idea?

In 2010, it was realized by MNRE that there existed a lack of appropriate solar radiation data suitable for designing solar power plant components. Although, there were several organizations including IMD (India Meteorological Department) engaged in solar radiation data collection. They focused on domains of applications other than solar electricity/solar heat, i.e., solar energy engineering usage. At the same time, satellite based solar radiation estimates were available but they were not accurate in nature because of the lack of appropriate ground measurements. Therefore, MNRE felt the need for the requirement of a project called the SRRA. India got a great impetus when Germany agreed to provide with its expertise in this area of activity. Since then this collaboration is moving ahead successfully and several phases of achievements have been attained. In 2010, India launched the National Solar Mission, which is one of the major initiatives worldwide to promote solar energy. The aim of this mission is to establish 20,000 MW of grid-connected solar power by 2022, run 2,000 MW equivalent of off-grid applications, and gradually increase the solar thermal collector area to 20 million sq. m.


How can SolMap help in ensuring that this target is achieved with complete efficacy?

The SolMap project is aimed at quantification of radiation distributed over entire India. The outcome of this project is an essential input for development of solar projects in the country from large scale centralized solar PV plants to small-scale roof top PV plants to solar thermal usage, including Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project development. Even for off-grid rural electrification application, this is the only source for reliable solar radiation information data in India. Thus, the investment planning for Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) targets can be appropriately chalked out. From the PV performance benchmarking part of SolMap project, important information on suitability of specific technologies in specific geographic regions in India can be utilized for setting up of new solar power projects.


How can SolMap help in tackling the present energy situation?

It has been envisaged that the project will make reliable and accurate data available, based on ground surface measurements and that subsequently this data could then be used to ground truth for other data sources including satellite-based data. The information provided from the project has already led to some fine policy adjustments of various state governments in terms of predicting solar park developments. Apart from these, 54 organizations have procured solar radiation data products from this project till date. The organizations of various satellite-based solar radiation data and data provider organizations have started using the SRRA data for the improvement of their satellite data products. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the latest organization to show interest in this. SolMap project's PV Performance Benchmarking Analysis can benefit the individual PV plant by detecting the problems so that corrective suggestions /recommendations for improving their performance can be provided which thereby increases the scope of enhancing the performance efficiency of the solar power plants in India.


Source: Terragreen, March 2015, pp. 18-20.

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