Few months ago, when Mohan’s blog had featured a few guest posts about Solar energy, I’d got news that our home in Udupi has adopted couple of solar powered lamps and a fan, at an investment close to 25k, which was expensive from all practical angles.
I got a chance to see them only during my recent visit to Udupi. This post shares a few photos and the way forward for solar energy as alternative source of energy.
The set up for solar energy is pretty simple. A panel, fixed on top of roof and exposed to sun will capture the light and generate electricity out of it. This electricity is then passed to a battery where it is stored. Electrical devices draw power from this battery and work from it. Unfortunately since solar power is Direct Current, most of our regular house hold appliances designed for Alternate Current can’t be used directly.
- Clean energy
- Savings in Electricity bill
- Basic lighting even when there’s power cut
The set up looks pretty simple and once implemented, it would power your house forever, with almost zero maintenance of other expenses, however, following challenges are preventing a widespread adoption of solar energy.
The 4 lamps and one fan set up did cost us close to 23k (after some 10% subsidy from govt). These devices can be used approximately 3-4 hours per day.
At 26k, this is almost unaffordably expensive for many house holds. The equipments do not seem to cost much (an equivalent set of conventional 4 lights and a table fan can be bought for one tenth of that price) but the price is high due to low volume, logistics and other factors.
All these devices run on DC (direct current), so most of the devices meant to run on AC can’t be run using solar energy. Simple devices like mobiles operate on DC, but their chargers would have built in adapters that expect input current to be AC and then convert into DC. This also means separate wiring in the house to connect solar powered fans and lights that run on DC.
Efficiency is still not enough: Current set up runs for 3-4 hours-which is enough for rural house holds which need power only from evening till night. City homes which may need power all night will find them inadequate. One way is to install more solar panels, which would directly add to cost. It is possible to power more power savvy devices from solar energy, unless the cost comes down or efficiency increases, they don’t make any practical sense at this point.
Adopting solar power will need additional wiring all over the home. Maintenance is said to be nill, but solar panel needs periodic cleaning and lights and fans and other devices are subject to electro/mechanical failures which may need repair/replacement.
The way forward:
I believe cost is the single most parameter which is holding people from adopting to solar technology aggressively. With increasing power cuts, increasing utility bills, I hope more and more people will venture out to invest in solar energy in near future. As volume grows the prices are sure to come down to more sensible levels (Just to give a comparison- LPG gas powered water heaters were costing close to 8k when they were initially introduced. Today they cost less than 2k)
What can be done to bring the cost down?
- Industrial houses should go for solar power more aggressively. Since they pay commercial rates, their savings will be much higher.
- Employee unions and residential associations of apartments can see if they can place bulk orders. If 100s of families in a complex are adopting Solar Energy, vendor is sure to give significant discounts.
- While approving large industries/residential complexes, Govt can consider enforcing a mandate that at least 10% of electricity requirement should be sourced from clean energy.
- While constructing new homes, give provision for solar power. This will save additional wiring later.
- Manufacturers of electrical equipments should give provision to run/charge the device from DC
Share your thoughts on this.