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A clean power leap

August 25, 2023 10:34 am

A clean power leap
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Propelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bold vision, India has achieved its non-fossil fuel power targets a decade ahead of schedule, marking a remarkable leap towards surpassing its renewable energy goals. Here, manufacturers and utility experts delve into efficient distribution patterns, panel manufacturer issues, technical challenges in integrating renewables, round-the-clock power plans, and the importance of alternative energy sources in rural India.

India has surpassed its non-fossil fuel installed power capacity by nine years ahead of schedule, demonstrating its commitment to renewable energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at a G20 meeting, highlighted India’s strides towards achieving 50 percent non-fossil fuel installed capacity by 2030.

India’s solar potential, known as insulation, shines particularly brightly in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and parts of Telangana, where the majority of solar capacity is concentrated. The nation boasts significant solar prowess with around 714 GW of identified energy capacity. Mr. Mahesh Paranjpe, CEO of Tata Power Solar, also identified promising wind energy potential in these states. He predicts that offshore wind projects will flourish within the next five years, especially in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

In addition, India holds untapped hydropower potential, particularly in the northeastern states, though infrastructural limitations have impeded progress. Recently, hydropower gained recognition as a renewable energy source, marking a shift from its previous classification. India’s rich renewable energy resources position it as a major contributor to the global renewable energy portfolio.

Efficient distribution patterns are imperative for such additions. Mr. Brajesh Kumar, Senior Vice President at Apraava Energy, emphasises geography’s pivotal role. While solar installations can span the nation, their efficacy varies regionally. Transmitting energy across distances, like Rajasthan to the Northeast, presents cost challenges. Karnataka’s localised water projects with pump containers cut distribution costs. The core strategy involves proximity to consumption centres and bridging power generation and usage gaps. Resource-rich regions like Rajasthan, Karnataka, or Tamil Nadu are key for effective generation and competitive distribution for larger-scale ventures. Thus, a hybrid approach emerges from local solar and biomass efforts, contrasted by distant wind and hydro plants. It combines centralised large-scale and numerous decentralised projects, varying in size and scope.

Expanding panel manufacturing capacities

Indian manufacturers contribute value yet require tariff barriers. The Indian manufacturing sector is advancing rapidly, attracting substantial investments. Every component of solar modules, from ingots to wafers, is meticulously crafted.

Indian manufacturers expand installed capacities; Rayzon plans a 1 GW cell line addition in Surat by Q4 2024. Despite capacity expansion efforts, challenges lie in policies and regulations. The terminated ALMM, effective April 1, 2023, reduces competition from Chinese counterparts. Balancing capacity growth and product enhancement is crucial for Indian module manufacturers’ well-being, notes Mr. Aditya Chalasani, Head Module Sales, South Region, Rayzon Solar.

Technical hurdles and investment strategies  

Mr. Ajay Devaraj, Secretary-General of the Indian Wind Power Association (IWPA), highlights the industry’s shift to larger, more potent wind turbines, evident through capacity growth from 250 KW to 3.1–5.1 MW. This accentuates the contemporary significance of size in wind energy technology. Despite these strides, challenges persist, particularly in evacuation infrastructure in states grappling with DISCOM financial woes. Tamil Nadu, an early adopter of wind and solar energy, faces obstacles due to the absence of dedicated wind energy substations. This complicates power management, often resulting in the premature curtailment of wind power due to its continuous flow. Initiatives like the national One Nation, One Grid project actively address these issues by interconnecting interstate transmission lines. Moreover, organisations like CEA are committed to enhancing transmission, manifesting a gradual resolve towards its improvement.

Mr. Paranjpe expresses concern over prime locations being occupied by lower-height wind turbines. He notes that initial stakeholders quickly claimed favourable sites, leading to the establishment of shorter turbines. To rectify this, he proposes re-evaluating and repowering policies. He highlights the correlation between hub height and wind velocity and explains that increased hub height boosts energy output due to the squared velocity-output relationship. This underscores the need for the government to reconsider repowering policies to harness wind energy potential at both new and existing sites, ultimately expanding the sector.

DISCOMs and GENCOs 

Energy storage systems, with varying capacities and needs across states, are indispensable for the future. Some require higher capacities and diverse options, while others demand less storage. Mr. Ajay proposes promoting wind-solar hybrid systems to cut storage costs, lowering prices and sizes as both resources share the load.

“Numerous nations believe in empowering consumers to produce their electricity. However, we grapple with distribution companies, struggling to accommodate surplus renewable power,” notes Mr. Paranjpe. Renewable power faces supply constraints, rendering infrastructure investments futile. This creates distribution challenges.

Gradually, consumers may evolve into prosumers, compelling distribution companies to support this shift. The government backs this transformation, obliging distribution firms to incorporate renewable energy.

Energy storage poses another challenge. Germany exemplifies decentralised independence, integrating solar and wind locally before linking with the main grid. This localised management, with distinct traditions and storage solutions, might be the path forward.

Cover Story_EPR Magazine

Round-the-clock power availability 

Developing a strategic approach for ensuring uninterrupted power availability in carbon-intensive industries involves considering various factors, including implementing wind-solar hybrid systems. These systems offer a way to enhance the overall contribution of renewable energy to customers. When relying solely on solar power, customers can expect around 40 to 50 percent of their energy from renewables. However, this percentage can rise to 60 to 70 percent by incorporating both wind and solar sources. The integration of batteries can further elevate this ratio to an impressive 85 to 90 percent, marking a substantial achievement in harnessing renewable energy. Therefore, energy storage emerges as a pivotal solution in this endeavour.

Mr. Paranjpe highlights that energy storage extends beyond electrochemical means, encompassing hydroelectric storage. Companies like Tata Power are exploring opportunities in hydroelectric pump storage, which, once incorporated into the renewable energy system, could pave the way for continuous access to renewable power. While there are theoretical models for achieving round-the-clock renewable energy, the associated costs have been a deterrent.

Mr. Kumar delves into two key perspectives: the increased adoption of renewables and the inherent intermittency they bring. Balancing generation and consumption becomes crucial. By shifting energy demand from one time block to another, the potential of solar energy, predominantly available during the daytime, can be harnessed to meet demand fluctuations. Certain segments, such as agricultural waste, exhibit flexibility in load, allowing for potential optimisation. This strategic alignment could reduce the dependence on energy storage infrastructure.

The synergy between wind and solar resources emerges as another pivotal consideration. These resources often complement each other due to their natural patterns. For instance, wind resources are abundant during monsoons when solar energy is hindered by cloud cover. Similarly, wind energy peaks during the evenings and nights, compensating for solar downtime. The integration of hydro and hydro pumps further enhances this dynamic.

“Companies are turning to renewables like wind due to rising coal prices and transportation costs,” says Mr. Devaraj. “Recent events have also boosted the appreciation for renewable energy. In 2019, we saw a policy on reverse bundling, combining renewables with thermal. Now, a new policy is underway to lower the technical minimum of thermal stations from 55% to 40–45%. We’ve been experimenting with around 27–30 thermal stations for the past 3–4 years, incorporating advancements. The government appears committed to promoting round-the-clock power through reverse bundling and exploring options like pumped hydroelectric storage.”

Flexible generation, often associated with thermal sources, can also play a role when approached strategically. Nordic countries offer a model where thermal energy sources are considered flexible, allowing for planned ramping up and down energy production.

By embracing a comprehensive strategy that capitalises on these various aspects, carbon-intensive industries can navigate intermittency challenges and achieve a more sustainable and continuous power supply.

The exclusive connection of renewables to the green power initiative might hold little significance. When customers are inclined to purchase due to escalating fossil fuel costs, it signifies increasing competitiveness. If our distinct selling proposition lies in being the most cost-effective option, we can omit the narrative of purchasing based on rising power prices. Additionally, we examined several government policies requiring implementation or revision. Prompt attention should be given to aspects concerning manufacturing and the transmission network.

There is also an opportunity in rural India for biomass and biogas. There were attempts made earlier as well, but they did not end up being successful. These need to be revisited from the perspective of policy support as well. For example, agricultural waste can be used to generate and distribute electricity in rural areas. These ideas can only be implemented once there are policies built around them.

Spokesperson and Quotes:

Renewed focus on rural biomass and biogas needs supportive policies for success.” – Mr. Mahesh Paranjpe, CEO, Tata Power Solar

Efficient distribution is critical; proximity and hybrid strategies are key for effective generation and distribution.” – Mr. Brajesh Kumar, Senior Vice President for Business Development & Commercial (Renewables), Apraava Energy

Balancing growth and policy is crucial for Indian solar manufacturers’ success and growth.” – Mr. Aditya Chalasani, Head Module Sales – South Region, Rayzon Solar

Renewable storage vital, wind-solar hybrids can lower costs and enhance integration.” – Mr. Ajay Devaraj, Secretary-General, Indian Wind Power Association (IWPA)

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