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Delhi yet to find its place under the sun

Despite getting 350 days of sunshine in a year, the city has no tangible solar energy infrastructure in place. Low awareness levels coupled with reduction of subsidy on solar gadgets by the govt has only added to the mess. Neelam Pandey reports.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2013 02:18 IST
Neelam Pandey
Neelam Pandey
Hindustan Times

If data from the India Meteorological Department were to be believed, Delhi gets 350 days of sunshine in a year. Going by that figure and considering the energy rut the country is in, the city should have had in place adequate solar power infrastructure to meet its energy requirement.

Yet, going by the number of power outages one witnesses in summer, it is clear that the city has no such infrastructure. Moreover, it fared among the worst in not meeting the set target of sourcing at least 2% of its power demand from renewable sources, says an assessment report on Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO).

"If Delhi had taken up its RPO target of 2% last year more seriously, it wouldn't have had to face the long power cuts last summer when the peak demand rose over 5500 MW," said Anand Pathanjali, campaigner, Greenpeace.

This year, this demand is likely to cross the 6,000MW mark.

Experts have pointed out that Delhi has immense potential for producing solar energy by utilising rooftop spaces but not much progress has been made on that front. And instead of promoting such alternative sources of energy, the Delhi government has done away with the subsidy it used to offer on solar water heaters. "On an average, we get 20 calls in a day from people about solar water heaters and photovoltaic system, but only two persons actually get down to installing it. Now that the government has done away with the subsidy, it is only going to further discourage people," said Bupinder Singh, a vendor based in Moti Nagar.

A photovoltaic system can set you down by nearly Rs. 2 lakh, which acts as a deterrent for many. But while its initial cost is high, it makes every penny spent on it count as power bills are substantially reduced. For instance, a 100-litre solar water heater, after the Centre's subsidy, costs around Rs. 18,000. But once it is installed, you can save up to Rs. 8,000-10,000 annually.

However, not many know about the advantages of harnessing solar energy. "The low awareness levels can be gauged by the fact that people don't even make provisions for solar fixtures for future use when building new houses," said Prodipto Ghosh, an expert with The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). "Making such a provision mandatory will to ensure they explore this opportunity," he added.

Another move that can help overcome the gap between demand and supply and reduce power bills is by having a system wherein people, who have installed solar panels, are able to sell power to the distribution companies. "This will reduce the burden on the conventional energy and will also solve the problem of outages to quite an extent," said Ghosh.

Using LED lights is also energy efficient. Discoms have been promoting their use by offering discounts. For instance, a 7W LED, equivalent to a 60W normal bulb, is being sold at Rs. 399 by BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) though its market price is anywhere between Rs. 550 and Rs. 600.

Case studies

Getting hot water for free for two years now

Retd Air Marshall Minhi Bawa
Safdurjung Enclave

Getting hot water during winter does not cost retired Air Marshall Minhi Bawa a single penny, thanks to the solar water heater he installed at his home nearly two years ago. At that time, the heater had cost Bawa Rs. 45,000.

Tucked away in one corner of his roof-top, the evacuated tube collector (ETC) is capable of generating 500 litres of hot water in a single day. The highly advanced system ensures that in case the water in the area is hard, the system does not corrode from the inside.

"Power tariff is going up every year and so are our bills. In the coming years, we will face scarcity of power. We had ample space on our roof-top and decided to go for solar power. It has been very effective. Most of our power consumption used to be on account of geysers during winters and now we don't pay a dime for it," he said.

Bawa and his wife are so happy with this system that they are now planning to go for energy-efficient lighting too. "We want to do our bit in saving energy," he added. HTC

Switch to LED helped save 30% power bills

Anita Bhargava
RK Puram
After debating for months, the Bhargava family had a year ago decided to switch to LED lighting despite the initial heavy costs involved. A year later, the decision is finally reaping benefits. Not only have their power bills gone down by about 30 per cent, but the house looks brighter too.

"The upfront cost is a lot. But our power bills have gone down considerably and the lighting is much better. Plus, these LED bulbs have a 10-year warranty," said Anita Bhargava, a resident of Aradhana Apartments in RK Puram's Sector 13. From paying R5,500 every month as power bills, Bhargava now pays only Rs. 3,000.

In fact, Bhargava is so happy with the results that she is now planning to shift her home's entire lighting to LED. "A year ago, we had decided to use LED lights for only half the house. Not only are these rooms well-lit, they are cooler too. We have now decided to make a total switch to LED," she added.

Way forward

Solar park at Charanka Village, Gujarat

Gujarat houses one of the biggest solar park in the world. Sprawled over 3,000 acres of wasteland bordering the Rann of Kutch, it produces 276 MW. Inaugurated last year, the park can produce 600 MW. The park is estimated to save eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year as well as nine lakh tonnes of coal and natural gas annually.

Thyagaraj Stadium in Delhi

The solar power plant at the Thyagaraj is one of the largest single roof-top power plant in the country. Spread over 10,521 sq metres, the plant has been designed to produce 1MW of solar energy. It has more than 5,500 solar photovoltaic panels, which are likely to last for around 25 years and is designed to light up more than 1,000 homes.

First Published: Apr 24, 2013 00:18 IST