Solar driven lights have garnered unmatched popularity in keeping the streets illuminated all through the night irrespective of power cuts or grid failures. Mostly adopted in rural areas than urban, industry experts discuss the reason behind this and also how long will it take for the world to finally get lit up just by the Sun.
The installation of solar street light is much easier and convenient. The components can be easily integrated on site and mounted on pole to provide illumination for the area. There is no need of laying down of cables as in the case of grid power. Still, they are majorly used in rural areas and not in urban areas.
Solar street lightings: Rural and urban
The rural India have vast open spaces with clear visibility to sun rays. On the other hand, the massive high rise buildings in urban areas hamper access to regular and long hours of direct sunlight. Shailesh Tokekar, General Manager, Sales, Wipro Lighting says, “Many areas suffer from the shadow of these buildings falling upon the PV panel making them unusable for energy generation. Hence, less usable areas for solar street light is also one of the dampening factors for the growth of solar street lighting in urban areas.”
Remote rural areas where utility based grid power infra is not yet available, solar street lighting provides the most suitable alternative. This has led to the rising requirement of solar street lighting in the rural India. However, all upcoming infrastructure and green field projects are implementing solar street lighting with or without a combination of grid based lighting in urban areas too.
According to Dr. SP Gonchaudhari, “Battery based systems are expensive, so the utilisation can be rather made in the rural areas where the power supply is out of their reach.” Moreover, the economic stability of the two sectors are entirely different. Moreover, there has to be two separate policies for rural and urban areas owing to different consumption and economic stability.
However, we can always have solar street lighting connected to the grid systems which will generate electricity during all the day, and draw equal quantum electricity from the grid and supply to the designated area. With this, the street light becomes carbon neutral. “This concept of mine, is being used in several parks in India, and soon they will be put up in streets also, says Dr. Gonchaudhari.
All the street lights were installed by government under special schemes such as AJAY. Sharmila Kumbhat, Director, K-Lite Industries says, “A small percentage of the solar street lights in rural areas were installed by individuals at remote and isolated places where there is no electricity. It was simply a compulsive necessity that drove them to have such street lights, which is not the case for urban population.”
Unlike urban areas, most rural areas have little to no access to the main electrical system. Even if they do, the conventional power lines are often out due to operational issues or for environmental reasons. Kishan Jain, Director, Goldmedal Electricals says, “With a special government policy and incentives backing the cause, many LED solar street lights have been installed in rural areas. Furthermore, the solar lights are common in rural regions because once the lights are installed there are no recurring costs for residents or officials.”
A worldwide solar lighting
The concept of solar powered devices has gained considerable momentum in recent years owing to the global debate surrounding global warming and energy efficient practices. Kumbhat says, “The need to conserve natural resources is another major reason behind the adoption of solar power.”
Solar is a strong viable option for illumination across all global geographies. We can see the adoption of solar power by all nations developing as well as developed in the past few years. However, solar power can only complement the other existing conventional energy sources. Adoption of renewable and other sustainable energy sources are also gaining ground such as wind, biomass, etc. Tokekar says, “We ultimately see the world moving towards a healthy balance of various conventional and renewable energy sources coupled with energy efficient illumination products.” Developing nations are also taking necessary steps to switch to clean energy. Jain says, “If we prioritise our planet and work together to use solar energy, then the day when the entire world is lit up just by the solar is not too far.”
Encouraging the growth of solar street lighting in India
The geographical location of India is extremely suitable for solar power generation with most of the areas receiving approximately 300 days for solar radiation and more than 50 per cent of the total area, considered to be a solar hotspot. Solar street lighting system is on a high with reducing costs due to rising efficiency and economies of scale. The declining prices of the solar PV Modules, batteries and other components will provide impetus to the use of solar street lighting.
The innovation in the field of higher efficiency solar PV modules as well as high energy density battery storage system is driving the growth of this industry. Tokekar says, “Solar street lighting is the best feasible alternative in illuminating areas where grid power supply is not available or providing it may incur large capital cost.”
Encouragement for the growth of solar street light can be from three distinct players i.e. government initiative, private entities/organisations and public individuals. Kumbhat says, “If an aggressive approach to create awareness among the general public could be done, supported by statutory compulsions, every independent house/industry should be asked to have only solar lights in their house/factory for outdoor lighting and the housing societies should have only solar street lights for their campus lights.”
Solar energy has increasingly become a preferred source of renewable energy. As per a government report, the average cost to generate solar electricity is about 18 per cent lower than those from coal-based fuel sources. However, Jain says, “A decline in component costs, increase in manufacturing facilities, and a stable economy can encourage more companies to invest in solar electricity, especially in solar street lighting. Not to mention, when global leaders work together and sign sustainability agreement, like the Paris Climate Accord, it encourages clean energy projects.”
In the past, such projects have led to a greater demand of solar powered street lighting system in India. With continued support from the government, in the form of investment schemes, incentives and initiatives, steady growth is likely.
We ultimately would see the world moving towards a healthy balance of various conventional and renewable sources coupled with energy efficient illumination products.
Shailesh Tokekar, General Manager, Sales, Wipro Lighting
To meet our dream to light up the entire world by solar, we will require is any trillion units that can be generated during the day and at places where the sunlight is sufficient.
Sharmila Kumbhat, Director, K-Lite Industries
If we prioritise our planet and work together to use solar energy, then the day when the entire world is lit up just by the solar is not too far.
Kishan Jain, Director, Goldmedal Electricals
We can always have solar street lighting connected to the grid systems that will draw the equal quantum electricity from the grid and supply to the designated area.
Dr. SP Gonchaudhari