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A small first step towards the state’s solar mission
Hot, hotter, hottest. This is how Tamil Nadu’s climate is often described. For a state starved of power, sunlight through 330 days is a blessing.

EVEN WHEN THE world is awakening to the need to move towards green energy, India’s hot tropical climate provides the nation opportunities galore.

Tamil Nadu has set a target  to achieve  3000MW of solar power in three years. Economist Communications Ltd, publishers of Industrial Economist, took an early step towards this goal by installing a 25 KW roof top solar power facility.

Constructed on the terrace of Economist House, the solar modules were supplied by Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd, procured from its subsidiary Avances, Germany and installed by RM Solaar Pvt Ltd.

Sudeep Jain, CMD-Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency, dedicated the facility at a function presided by S Krishnan, Principal Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu (Expenditure) and addressed by Dr. Stefan Weckbach, Consul General, German Consulate Chennai and B Santhanam, Chairman CII (SR) and President, Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd.

Consumers becoming producers of power

The Tamil Nadu Solar Energy Policy 2012 has set a goal of 3000 MW by 2015. The kind of responses we have received is quite heartening. From consumers of power, solar power gives users the freedom of becoming producers by feeding excess power back into the grid. With net metering as part of the policy, domestic consumers are provided incentives for power generation  at the rate of Rs 2 per unit for first two years, Re 1 per unit for next two years and Rs 0.50 per unit for subsequent two years. Apart from this the Central government subsidy of 30 per cent and Rs 20,000 per KW additional capital subsidy by the state government for domestic consumers will attract many. With such policies we are trying to reach the kind of facility created in Germany. We want to encourage everyone to go solar.

Sudeep Jain, Chairman Cum Managing Director,Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency

A manufacturing hub for solar panels

My memory of solar panels goes to the clunky big equipment that would often fail and end up as decorative pieces. But today it is sleek, aesthetically beautiful and efficient. As part of the team that formulated the solar power policy, we focused on creating the right framework for private sector to utilise and develop solar energy. Rather than a mere solar obligation, Economist House has come up with this 25 KW facility due to its concern for ecology and sustainability. Though the solar PV modules are imported from Germany, eventually we expect to create a manufacturing hub for solar panels as part of Tamil Nadu’s solar energy policy. We have taken a policy initiative to facilitate foreign SMEs to invest under the

Tamil Nadu Investment Promotion Policy.

S Krishnan, Principal Secretary to Government of  Tamil Nadu (Expenditure)

Focus on renewable energy balance

The German government’s new energy policy focuses on the renewable energy balance and efficiency. This policy aims to modernise the transmission infrastructure.

German renewable industry creates about 400,000 jobs and richly contributes to the German GDP. Germany has set a goal to achieve 35 per cent of her total energy need from renewable sources by 2020. In 2012, the share of renewable energy in the electricity sector has increased to 23 per cent and it was mainly due to investments in hydro, wind, bio-gas and photovoltaics.

Photovoltaic modules are developed for high performance even in low light conditions. Germany is the leader in such technology but of late there is intense competition. With China entering the market, the price of photovoltaics reduced by 25 per cent but quality is a concern. Hopefully, market mechanisms will resolve this issue.

Germany has made a lot of investments in the renewable energy sector and recently the focus has shifted from wind to solar energy. In the last two years we have installed additional solar power capacity of 7500 MW per year. These were not erected on huge acres of land, but on top of domestic buildings, agricultural sites, factories .... In 2012 solar power contributed about 10 per cent of the total energy of about 144 billion KW.

As Krishnan said, it is important to create a solar manufacturing hub within the country to bring down the initial investments for roof top solar. Germany would be happy to support such initiatives. In the government to government conversations that took place in Berlin recently, Germany has agreed to support India in developing green corridors and transmission grids for green sources through a soft loan of a billion euros. We hope a green future would soon become a reality.

Dr. Stefan Weckbach, Consul General, German Consulate, Chennai

Chennai can emerge the sunshine power capital of India

We need a four dimensional approach to develop and harness the solar power eco system. Tamil Nadu took the lead in wind power and last year almost a quarter of our power was produced from this source. For solar power to pick up pace, a similar effort has to be taken. Rooftops should not be calculated in square feet instead as KW or MW of solar power that they can produce! At Saint Gobain we have roof top worth 10MW. If 20 to 25 neighbouring companies, bigger than us join in the solar power effort,  we could make it possible to install 200 MW to 250MW of power capacity. If 200,000 households in the city with rooftop of 250 square feet install capacities amounting to 50 MW, about 250-300 MW can be achieved.

Many consider the initial investment huge with poor returns. But back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that if invested on 1 KW on the rooftop, in day-time one-sixth of power will come from sun. With net metering and generation-based incentive, it gives close to 9 per cent return, a very good return from a green industry.

Once the demand is created for solar roof tops, export of panels in a large scale would add to returns on the initial investment. This should help create a manufacturing eco- system here with a fixed focus that three years down the lane all panels will be manufactured in India.

The next main thing would be to develop skills for the jobs that would be created from this green industry. Thousands of green jobs will be created in the fields of electrical, panel fabrication and installation. If a combined manufacturing and skills eco- system is created, Tamil Nadu will be a forerunner in this field.

Along with industry and domestic consumers, the policy should also focus on agriculture. The biggest expenditure for government is the subsidy on electricity given to agricultural plots. If free electricity could be replaced by solar pump sets, electricity consumption would reduce and payback can be less than two years.

With major efforts in the main areas of manufacturing, skills ecosystem and agriculture, Chennai can become the sunshine  power capital of India.

B Santhanam, Chairman CII(SR) and President, Saint-Gobain Glass India Ltd

Commitment to ecology and technology

Industrial Economist has striven  to keep abreast of technology. This solar power installed at Economist House is one such initiative of the magazine to embrace technology and to foster the necessity of renewable energy in today’s power crisis. It was Bhaskar Ramamurthy, Director,  IIT-M who triggered the thought of every home producing its own power through solar panels. He claimed how the peak time power requirement would reduce by 60 per cent if done so.

Though solar panels do not look like an attractive investment at present, the future looks relatively promising. Looking ahead, this will become a trend. With an excellent policy announced by the state, I request the authorities for a facile execution and extend the benefit of submitting excess power back to the grid even to commercial consumers.

In 2002 Economist House opted for double glazing of the entire building, bringing about handsome advantages in terms of energy and saving.  L&T - ECC that constructed the Economist House,  erected  a class rain water harvesting facility that has made EH self-sufficient in water even during the worst drought year.

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