A Silicon Valley start-up says it has developed technology that can deliver solar power in about a year at prices competitive with coal-fired electricity, a milestone that would leapfrog other more established players and turbocharge the fast-growing industry. SUNRGI's "concentrated photovoltaic" system relies on lenses to magnify sunlight 2,000 times, letting it produce as much electricity as standard panels with a far smaller system. Craig Goodman, head of the National Energy Marketers Association, is expected to announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

Electricity from renewable sources may be fairly cheap to make, but it cannot be stored and produced when needed. But the solar industry is moving to solve both problems with a single approach: gather heat from the sun, boil water into steam, spin a turbine and make power. Solar power, the holy grail of renewable energy, has always faced the problem of how to store the energy captured from the sun's rays so that demand for electricity can be met at night or whenever the sun is not shining.

A grass-roots movement to generate power in towns and basements is challenging the energy industry's status quo.

The then advisor to Prime Minister on Power Yasin Malik has said that solar energy is the best solution to the ongoing power crisis in the country.

Tata BP Solar, which specialises in solar photovoltaics, has signed an agreement with Calyon Bank (Credit Agricole CIB) and BNP Paribas to raise a $78 million debt to fund its 128 mw solar cell expans

It will be the California-based firm's largest global facility.

Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency will invite proposals soon Officials will visit Germany and Spain where large solar photovoltaic power plants have come up Programme to encourage generation of grid quality power from megawatt-sized solar plants CHENNAI: Half-a-dozen companies have expressed interest in implementing the recently unveiled national programme on solar power generation in the State. Noting that this is only in the formative stage, a senior official says that soon the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency will formally invite proposals from these companies, and specific projects will be formulated at the end of this process. Also, as part of firming up its plan to promote solar energy, the State Government has decided to depute to Germany and Spain the Agency's two senior officers, including its chairman-cum-managing director Mohan Verghese Chunkath. The two nations have been chosen since most of the recently installed large solar photovoltaic power plants have come up there. Distribution losses An official document of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy states that in view of the large potential of solar energy in the country, the Ministry has launched a demonstration programme to encourage grid quality power generation from megawatt-sized solar power plants. Besides capacity addition, the proposed plants could help to tackle peak load operations and reduce distribution losses caused by voltage drops in several regions. Under this programme, registered companies, as project developers, would be encouraged to set up solar power projects on a build, own and operate basis. The Ministry will provide generation-based incentive up to Rs. 12 a unit for solar photovoltaic and Rs. 10 a unit for solar thermal power fed to the grid. Proposals from each developer with a maximum aggregate capacity of 5 megawatt (MW) will be considered. Totally, the Government will provide incentive for installation of 50-MW solar power projects. The projects with an aggregate capacity of 10 MW in a State will be considered for support. However, preference will be given to the projects from the States where the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions have announced, or about to announce, tariff for solar power. The Centre will also provide an incentive of 10 paise a unit to power utilities and one- time incentive of Rs. 2 lakh per MW to the State nodal agencies for their assistance in implementation and monitoring of the projects. The generation-based incentives announced by the Centre are over and above the tariff that will be determined by the commissions and should not go into the calculation of tariff, the document says.

Reliance Industries headed by Mukesh Ambani has offered to set up a solar power plant in Haryana at an initial cost of Rs 125 crore. Reliance is already setting up two special economic zones in Gurgaon and Jhajjar districts. In a letter written to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ambani expressed his desire to set up 5 MW grid-connected solar photovoltaic power plant in Hisar district or any other suitable location. The company has chosen Hisar because it feels that the area has "one of the best possible solar insolation throughout the year in the state. He said his company would progressively expand the project. Appreciating the efforts being made by the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA) to promote solar energy, Ambani said the Reliance would like to support HAREDA initiatives. He said an investment in the solar power plant would also help in generating employment as well as in the development of the region.

New Delhi has proposed that India will provide a village in Bangladesh with solar electric supply as part of the energy cooperation initiative in the SAARC region. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka on Sunday sent a letter to the foreign ministry proposing that Delhi wanted to install solar power systems in one of the villages in Bangladesh for electric supply to 300 home-lights and 50 streetlights. The foreign ministry forwarded the letter to the Power Division on Monday, sources in the division said. In the letter, Delhi suggested that Dhaka should send in the names of 2 or 3 villages to choose one from among. A team of experts of India will select the village after visiting the proposed sites. The letter said Delhi had made the proposal to provide one village with solar power in keeping with the decision on energy cooperation made at the 14th SAARC Summit in April 2007. Sources in the Power Division said the Rural Electrification Board was no Monday advised to send in the names of three remote villages, especially in coastal areas, where it would not be possible for the government to supply power from the national grid.

With ample sunlight almost around the year, one possibility is to use of solar energy to generate electricity in apartments and township projects in Chennai, writes Durganand Balsavar Steady strides: Solar Examples of how Solar Power is harnessed and used . House in Canada has solar panels on the roof. Impacted by the global context, Chennai is experiencing dramatic change with ever-increasing pressure from growing populations. Rapid urbanisation has resulted in considerable increase in the use of energy and fuel, consequently polluting atmosphere through the release of toxic emissions. This situation calls for a rapid and fundamental reorientation in our thinking, particularly on the part of planners and institutions involved in the process of urban development. The form of our future built environment must be based on a responsible approach to an ecological balance and the use of the inexhaustible energy potential of the sun. Buildings, in urban areas, are major consumers of energy. It has been estimated that in the US, residential and commercial buildings together use two-thirds of all electricity consumed in the country. While the situation is not as acute in India, increasing demands on urbanisation may push in that direction. The percentage of urban population in India increased from 18.0 in 1961 to 27.8 in 2001. The energy consumption raised threefold, from 4.16 to 12.8 quadrillion Btu between 1980 and 2001, putting India next only to the US, Germany, Japan and China in total energy consumption. There is greater recognition that it is time to take meaningful initiatives in this direction, through creating awareness of what are called 'green' buildings. Solar energy paradigm Solar lamp. With ample sunlight almost around the year, one possibility is through use of solar energy and other renewable energy sources to generate electricity to meet the needs of residential buildings in Chennai. At an urban scale similar initiatives could be undertaken to provide solar powered streetlights and other public facilities. Delhi government has decided to pass an order for compulsory use of solar power for advertising hoardings and water heating in government and some categories of buildings. The order also says that lights of advertisement hoardings shall be powered by solar photovoltaic systems at the cost of the franchisee and conventional streetlights shall be replaced by solar photovoltaic powered ones. Tsunami experiences In Tamil Nadu, renewable energy is now making a gradual impact especially in rural areas. Simultaneously though, its utilisation in urban and semi-urban areas has not yet been growing at the desired pace. Wind energy and solar energy seem to be the most preferred at this stage. Pertinent to mention here is that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has initiated a programme at the national level assisted by academic & research organisations, solar equipment manufacturers, and funding institutions like the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). At the State level Non-Governmental Organisations have also, in the absence of infrastructure in rural regions, have invariably relied on solar energy sources. For instance, over the last three years, in coastal Tamil Nadu, affected by the tsunami, several rehabilitation and rebuilding programs were dependant on solar energy for their sustainability. Several temporary shelter enclaves were equipped with cost-effective solar lights and solar fans, in the absence of links to the TNEB network in remote inaccessible areas. The solar street lights are manufactured by companies such as Tata BP Solar. Though the initial cost of investment is relatively higher than the conventional systems, in the long term, in remote rural areas, solar energy has gradually come to be accepted as a more reliable alternative. Solar energy in Chennai Solar street light. If experiments to introduce solar energy are workable in housing settlements in Nagapatinam and Ladakh, a more systematic and concerted effort to explore the possibilities and constraints of introducing such systems in Chennai and other fast growing urban areas is required through the cooperative efforts of the various stakeholders. At a purely theoretical level, the unutilised surface area of the terraces of buildings in the city itself should provide enough incentive to gradually shift to renewable sources like solar energy. In addition balconies also become potential areas to harvest solar power. Even slopped roofs with tiles can accommodate solar panels. The present technology allows for less conspicuous solar array on the roof and they can harvest more energy with less space. In residential developments, the immense potential for use of solar energy equipment exists, through solar lights in common areas and open spaces, gateways, solar fans, solar water heaters and even the possibility of solar cookers in the kitchen. While it could dramatically reduce the consumption of electricity, savings in electricity bills could offset the initial investments. The fact remains that in harnessing it effectively, several initiatives are required.. A nominal solar power backup system UPS that can run 2 lights a fan and a TV can cost about Rs. 28,000/-. These systems have a 20-year durability and a battery life of 3 years. Apprehensions that a cloudy day could mean that there is no solar power need to be allayed.Several solar systems do have back-up energy systems to tide through a few days of cloudy weather. More user-friendly equipment could also facilitate its use on a larger scale. Concerns voiced by environmentalists on the excessive production of photovoltaic solar cells containing silica also need careful examination before deploying the technology. An integrated awareness of the benefits and constraints of solar energy and its sustainability over the long term in conserving and protecting our environment is essential. In order to attain these goals, it will be necessary to modify existing courses of instruction and training, as well as energy supply systems, funding and distribution models, standards, statutory regulations and laws in accordance with the new objectives. The author is an architect practising in Chennai and a visiting faculty at School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University.

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