Due to increased adoption of appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, electric geyzers, microwave ovens, air conditioners etc and bomb on our monthly electricity bill due to this has created an urge for alternative energy source, a reliable one.
Despite the government’s best efforts to rapidly add power generation capacity through solar farms (solar accounted for 37% of capacity added in 2017), grid power suffers from significant power outages frequently and often unscheduled ones due to a variety of reasons.
Further due to increasing maintenance & upgradation related costs, the cost of grid power will continue to escalate. While residential & small commercial establishments have installed UPS & small capacity gensets to have back-up power during a grid outage, they mostly provide short duration back-up to limited appliances & are not an alternate power source to grid power.
UPS power systems suffer from an additional limitation of increasing the grid power bill by 5 – 8% due to self-power consumption to provide an instant back-up during unscheduled power outages.
Solar power solutions
‘Necessity has been the driver for widespread adoption’, solar electric, a technology that has been in existence and has been undergoing refinement for over three decades being used for applications in space, defence and for electrification of remote locations has now reached techno-commercial viability and is what the world is betting on to fulfill the expectations and growing demand for clean, uninterrupted power in the digital era.
In fact, solar is the only source of energy where the cost of energy generation will keep reducing in future since the fuel source (sunlight) is free and abundantly available. With solar panels able to produce electrical energy for over 25 years, once the investment cost is recovered in first 4 – 6 years, it is essentially a free energy source for the rest of its functional life.
In addition to being clean, dependable & a silent source of energy with minimal maintenance requirements, solar power is also the most flexible energy source as it is suitable for modular installations of any capacity & scale, to power either a specific application or a range of equipment.
Solar power for residencies
A compact roof space of 10 feet x 10 feet, say on top of a staircase room or even on top of an overhead water tank of most residential houses can be mounted with 1.5kW capacity of solar panels which will generate up to 6 kWh (units) of electrical energy and reduce the household’s dependency on grid power to a large extent or a typical 2-bedroom house with 3 or 4 people residing in it, harnessing this much free solar energy can reduce their grid power consumption, or, electricity bill, by over 60%.
With specific information on the appliances being used and their utilisation pattern, the solar power system can easily be optimized and the home made almost grid independent, where grid power can become just a backup source of power.
In this way the house can be equipped to be future ready by defending itself from ever increasing grid power costs with the added comfort of becoming self-sustaining & independent with uninterrupted quality power for safe operation of even the most sensitive appliances at home like TV, music system or Wi-Fi routers.
One of the main questions to be asked then is that if solar ticks all aspects of being the next generation energy source, why does it still lack momentum for widespread adoption? Yes, while the benefits of solar have been well known, the industry has been experiencing a few challenges till recent years, with the two major ones being – high capital cost and the flexibility of being able to use solar energy beyond sunshine hours.
Fortunately, both these concerns have been overcome convincingly in recent years. The capital cost of solar panels has been declining rapidly due to the scale being created by large scale solar farms being built with the support of governments’ world over. This cost reduction has consequently put residential or small scale solar within the reach of homeowners or small commercial establishments.
For solar to truly make sense, homeowners need to be able to use the solar energy generated throughout the day and not be restricted only to the sunshine hours when the solar panels are generating energy.
Governments across the world again have incentivised and supported early adopters with schemes like net metering, wherein excess solar energy generated during sunshine hours can be exported to the grid to meet the energy demand on the grid network elsewhere, and be able to draw in the metered extent of electrical energy for free for use beyond sunshine hours.
It provides savings in the electricity bill by harnessing free solar energy throughout the day while drawing only excess power if required from the grid, provides uninterrupted power round the clock insulating one from grid power outages and is not dependent on any regulatory approvals or ongoing policy support.
At the heart of the solar power system is an intelligent solar hybrid inverter that enables the system to function optimally despite the varying usage conditions. Many systems also come equipped with remote control and monitoring technology that enable the homeowner to monitor savings & performance related statistics in real-time.
Considering that solar panels have a functional life of over 25 years, the replacement cost of battery storage over this period will be a fraction of the savings the system generates over its lifetime.
The battery technology & price point is also getting optimized rapidly given the growth & momentum for electric mobility thus enabling the solar power system owner to opt for cheaper, more efficient technology during the replacement cycle.
Source: India times, pv-magazine