[Solved] Describe the benefits of deriving electric energy from sunlight in contrast to the conventional energy generation. What are the initiatives offered by our Government for this purpose? (UPSC GS-3 mains 2020)

The major benefit of using solar energy is that it does not generate greenhouse gases and other pollutants. It is a renewable source of energy, which means that it is non-depleting and inexhaustible in contrast to conventional sources such as fossil fuel.

The initiatives offered by the government for this purpose include providing capital subsidies, generation based incentives and providing attractive interest rates on loans for installing these plants.

Need of solar energy

  • Energy security:

    • India energy demands is largely fulfilled by non-renewable source of energy.
    • The scarcity of these fossil resources stresses the need for renewable energy sources.
    • Abundance of solar energy can fulfill India clean energy demands.
    • India is dependent on imports to fulfill its energy demands, thereby incurring huge expenditure and uncertainty with regards to energy security.
  • Economic development:

    • India being a developing economy needs proper electricity for industrial growth and agriculture.
    • India also needs self sufficiency and minimal cost in power generation, assured regular supply, which will boost industries and economy.
  • Social development:

    • The problem of power cuts and unavailability of electricity especially in rural area, leads to improper human development.
    • Mostly energy demands are fulfilled by subsidised kerosene, leading to loss for exchequer.
  • Environment concern:

    • India’s large part of energy demand is fulfilled by thermal energy largely dependent on fossil fuels.
    • It also causes environment pollution
    • Solar energy is clean form of energy resource, which can be a substitute.

Technology

  • Solar Photovoltaic: Solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells convert solar radiation (sunlight) into electricity. A solar cell is a semi-conducting device made of silicon and/or other materials, which, when exposed to sunlight, generates electricity.
  • Solar thermal: Solar Thermal Power systems, also known as Concentrating Solar Power systems, use concentrated solar radiation as a high temperature energy source to produce electricity using thermal route.

Types

  • Solar for grid connected electricity:

    • Grid interactive solar energy is derived from solar photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power Plants on a large scale.
  • Solar for off-grid solutions:

    • While, the areas with easier grid access are utilizing grid connectivity, the places where utility power is scant or too expensive to bring, have no choice but to opt for their own generation.
    • They generate power from a diverse range of small local generators using both fossil fuels (diesel, gas) and locally available renewable energy technologies (solar PV, wind, small hydro, biomass, etc.) with or without its own storage (batteries). This is known as off-grid electricity.

Advantages

  • Solar Energy is available throughout the day which is the peak load demand time.
  • Solar energy conversion equipments have longer life and need lesser maintenance and hence provide higher energy infrastructure security.
  • Low running costs & grid tie-up capital returns (Net Metering).
  • Unlike conventional thermal power generation from coal, they do not cause pollution and generate clean power.
  • Abundance of free solar energy in almost all parts of country.
  • No overhead wires- no transmission loss

Challenges in adoption

  • India’s solar story is largely built over imported products.
  • India’s domestic content requirement clause ia facing legal challenge at WTO.
  • India is facing challenge to balance Prioritising domestic goals and WTO commitments.
  • The dumping of products is leading to profit erosion of local manufacturers.
  • Indian domestic manufacturers aren’t technically and economically strong to compete with Chinese companies.
  • China’s strong manufacturing base is giving stiff challenge to domestic manufacturer.
  • Land availability in India for solar plant is less due to high population density.
  • India’s solar waste is estimated to be around 1.8 million by 2050 also needs to be tackled.
  • To upheld India’s commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the government wants to achieve 40% of installed electric power capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030.
  • National Solar Mission (NSM) launched in 2010 is one of the efforts in this direction to harness the country’s estimated solar energy potential of about 750 GW solar power.
  • The three components of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) provides water and energy security to farmers and enhances their income making Annadata the Urjadata too.
  • Implementation of the ‘Off-Grid Solar PV Applications Programme’ for Solar Street Lights, Solar Study Lamps and Solar Power Packs which is currently in its 3rd Phase and reached North-Eastern States. ‘Atal Jyoti Yojana (AJAY)’ is meant to install solar street lights.
  • The other initiatives include ‘Roof Top Solar programme’ accelerating the deployment of solar rooftop systems, ‘Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects’ facilitating large scale grid-connected solar power projects and setting up 12 GW Grid- Connected Solar PV Power Projects with domestic cells by Public Sector Undertakings.

Government initiatives to boost solar energy

  • Ministry of new and renewable energy is the nodal agency to tackle India’s renewable energy issues.
  • National Solar Mission is a major initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenge.
  • The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) is a Non-Banking Financial Institution under the administrative control of this Ministry for providing term loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  • National institute of solar energy is created as autonomous institution under MoNRE is apex body for R&D.
  • Establishment of solar parks and ultra major solar power project and enhancing grid connectivity infrastructure.
  • Promotion of canal bank and canal tank solar infrastructure.
  • Sustainable rooftop implementation of Solar transfiguration of India (SRISTI) scheme to promote rooftop solar power projects in india.
  • Suryamitra programme to prepare qualified workforce.
  • Renewable purchase obligation for large energy consumer customers.
  • National green energy programme and green energy corridor.

Thus, Solar energy is certainlythe technology for the future. The International Solar Alliance started by India is evidence of our dedication towards renewable sources in the future.

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