Noted scientist, Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) has recently gone on record saying there is a big need for reducing the existing costs on generating solar energy.
- What we need to do is, boost solar energy through policy initiatives and bringing in technology
that can meet India
conditions and environment.
- Focus should be on large-scale application of the technology.
- To rapidly bringing down solar rats to achieve parity with conventional sources of energy
- We are open to all models of investment whether it is PPP (public private partnership) or something different. Already, there are various private players in the solar energy sector. The country needs more and more players to invest - private, government or semi-government.
Longevity of the technology with zero or reduced technological obsolence should also be a priority for all those who are seriously pursuing this model of generating electricity. A few developments on this issue is listed below for getting a glimpse as to how fast things are moving on international level on this subject matter:
- In the US, currently, coal costs about 7 cents a watt versus 22 cents for solar. But the solar indusry is moving so far that those costs will be equal atleast for utilities in the near future. In sunny places like California, it is already much closer during peak hours, when the sun is shining and coal power becomes more expensive. In other words, once grid parity is reached, it becomes economically non-viable for power companies to not be installing large fields of solar panels to generate the cheapest form of available energy.
- A new start-up company known as Halotechnics is attempting to tackle the twin issues on solar power which is currently perceived as expensive and intermittent. The company has developed new heat storage materials that promise to not only make solar thermal power plants more efficient, but also reduce the cost of storing energy from the sun for use when it is most needed.
The materials, which include new mixtures of salts as well as new glass materials, could be key to making solar thermal power plants cheap enough - and reliable enough - to compete with fossil fuels on a large scale. Unlike solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, solar thermal plants generating electricity by using a large field of mirrors to concentrate sunlight and produce high temperatures that, in turn, generate steam for a turbine and drive a generator.
Such plants cost a litte more than ones based on solar panels, which have recently fallen in price, but they do have one advantage: it is easier and far cheaper to store heat produced by the mirrors in a concentrated solar thermal plant than to store electricity from solar panels.
Some solar-thermal plants are equipped with heat storge equipment that allows them to generate steam even after the sun goes down. The new salt and glass materials, which Halotechnics discovered by usng a high throughput screening process to sort through nearly 18,000 mixtures, could reduce the cost of solar thermal power in several ways.
They allow solar-thermal plants to operate at high temperatures, thus improving their efficiency and reducing the size of the mirror array needed by upto 25 percent. The materials store up to three times more energy than heat storage materials used now, reducing the cost of the storage system, and potentially increase the number of thermal plants that can be equipped with storage. Better energy storage can reduce the cost per kilowatt-hour of the electricity produced by a solar thermal plant, because the turbines and generators can produce power day and night. More can be learnt by visiting the Halotechnics website updates and also undertaking plant tours for better understanding the whole processes involved.
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