Solar and Wind Power

Solar power remains the brightly promising spot in the field of renewable energy, and its prospects seem to be improving by the day. Already the mavens abroad are of the opinion that within three to seven years, unsubsidized solar power could cost no more than electricity generated using fossil fuels. We do need to have clear cut norms and proactive policy to coagulate funds and resources right along the board in the renewable energy space. Consider wind driven power generation. It is estimated that wind energy is about 2% of the total solar energy reaching the earth which is almost 2 billion tones of oil equivalent a year or 200 times that’s consumed by all the worlds’ economies. However, only a small fraction of the potential has been tapped, although India is one of the world leaders in installed wind power generation with a capacity of over 10,000 mw. But actual utilization read plant load factor, in wind power can be modest dependent as it is on such parameters as air density, sped etc.

A new era in renewals is clearly round the corner. Note that corporates like Indo-Solar and Orient Green Power have recently been tapping the capital market via IPOs. But a bit of perspective is called for, when telescoping into the future. The expert projection is that by 2020, global installed solar capacity could be 20 to 40 times its current levels. However, even if all of the forecast growth does occur, solar power will present only about 3% to 6% of installed electricity generation capacity in 2020. Nevertheless the economies of solar power are rapidly changing for the better due to scale economies, attendant cost reductions and technology evolution. Besides as fossil prices rise, the relative prices of alternative energy sources like solar and wind power would surely fall.

The bottom line is that continued improvement in solar cell designs and materials can be expected for years, but the mavens seem not to have sighted the appearance of a radical break through or the emergence of a dominant technology on the horizon. At present, the ground reality is that three technologies silicon wafer based and this film photo voltaic and concentrated solar thermal power are competing for cost leadership. Each has its advantages for certain applications but none has the overall advantage Major innovations and shifts in the relative cost comparison of the relevant technologies could well occur. Meanwhile, Indian sugar mill have committed to supplying one billion liters of ethanol to petroleum — products marketing companies during next sugar years starting in October. The Center has fixed an ad hoc uniform ex-factory price for ethanol pan India at 27 per liter and so 5% ethanol blending with petrol will be restarted. Oil marketing companies had been blending 5% ethanol with petrol since 2000 until October 2009, when there was a shortfall. There are plans to hike the blending rate to 10% and supply bio-diesel as well.

In parallel, the stated objective of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is to ramp up capacity of grid connected solar power generation to 1,000 megawatt within three years by 2013. The plan is to commission an additional 3,000 mw by 2017. Incentives by mandatory purchase obligation of renewable energy by power utilities and backed by preferential tariff setting. Already policy makers aver that it is quite possible to reach and even exceed a target of 10,000 mw of installed solar power generation capacity by 2017, with enhanced financial and technology transfer support. The ambitious target of the mission for 2022 is to have 20,000 mw or more of solar capacity up and running. The actual achievement would be crucially dependent on the learning and capacity building during the first two phases.

The figures suggest that over the last two decades the cost of manufacturing and installing a photo voltaic solar power system gas decreased by about 20% with every doubling of installed capacity base, The result that solar power has been gradually moving towards cost competitiveness in some regions abroad. The expert analysis is that by 2020 at least ten regions globally with song sunlight will have reached grid parity. Also, from until 2020 installed global solar power capacity would likely grow by about 30 to 35% per annum. Solar power capacity worldwide would step up roughly to 10 giga watts currently to about 200 to 400 GW.

But note that while e cumulative solar capacity by the end of the decade would represent only about 3% of global electricity output, roughly 20 to 40 new giga watts a year of installed solar capacity would amount to as much as 10 to 20% of annual new power capacity over the period. However it would not mean much in terms of reduced carbon emissions. The estimates suggest that the fresh solar power capacity would abate only about 125 to 250 mega tons of a carbon dioxide roughly 0.3 to 0.5 % of global emission in 2020.

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