Indian Govt replacing 26 Mn Diesel Water Pumps with Solar Pumps

by Guest Contributor Jeff Spross.

Renewable Energy pumps water. The Indian government is aiming to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps for solar-powered ones.
Renewable Energy pumps water. The Indian government is aiming to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps for solar-powered ones. Image by Shutterstock

Originally published on ThinkProgress.

The pumps are used by farmers throughout the country to pull in water for irrigation, and currently rely on diesel generators or India’s fossil-fuel-reliant electrical grid for power.

Pashupathy Gopalan, the regional head of SunEdison, told Bloomberg that 8 million diesel pumps already in use could be replaced right now. And India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates another 700,000 diesel pumps that could be replaced are bought in India every year.

“The potential is huge,” said Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the ministry. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”

The program works by subsidizing the swap, and operates in different capacities in India’s various states, sometimes subsidizing the solar pumps up to 86 percent. Thanks to that aid, and the dramatic collapse in prices for solar power, the pumps pay themselves off in one to four years, according to Ajay Goel, the chief executive officer of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., a panel maker and contractor. And Stephan Grinzinger, the head of sales for a German solar water pump maker, told Bloomberg the economics will only get better: diesel prices will rise and spike during farming season, and economies of scale will help the swap program.

Two-thirds of India’s electricity is generated by coal, with natural gas and hydroelectric making up most of the rest. But the monsoon season is growing more erratic — likely due to climate change — making power from the hydroelectric dams less reliable as well. Coal is growing in economic cost for India, so power plants often sit idle, and the coal that is easy to reach would require displacing major population centers.

The national grid that relies on those fuels has seen few updates since it was constructed in they 1960s. It’s also under growing stress from India’s rising middle class, which is adopting air conditioning and running water in massive numbers — all in a country prone to heat waves, again thanks in part to climate change. As backup, many Indian residents and businesses rely on diesel generators, which leaves them vulnerable to the fuel market and contributes to fossil fuel emissions.

Even when the grid is working, around 300 million of India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants don’t have access to it. When it’s not, rolling blackouts are common. Many farmers are able to draw only four hours of power a day from the grid, and that often at night. Heat waves in 2013 were accompanied by widespread blackouts, and a two-day grid failure in 2012 left over 600 million Indians without power.

Ironically, thanks to the kind of distributed and sustainable generation the swap program represents, many of India’s rural poor actually faired much better during the blackout than the grid-dependent middle-class. It’s one of the strengths of solar in particular, even before climate change is considered: a more decentralized power system, based around “microgrids” and individual power generation, rather than a centralized system reliant on the good function of large, singular power providers. In India in particular, sunlight is most plentiful at the times when demand tends to peak. That leaves the power system more adaptable, less prone to central failures, and thus more hospitable to those still struggling to overcome poverty in particular.

Beyond India’s pump swap program, other efforts in south Asia and northern Africa are already underway to bypass grid expansion entirely, and bring solar power and microgrids directly to poor people.

Image Credit: solar water pump via Shutterstock

This article, Indian Government Aims For 26 Million Solar Water Pumps, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Former Duke Energy CEO calls Rooftop Solar the Next Big Thing

by Giles Parkinson.

Renewable energy in the form of distributed solar. Image by KCET.org
Renewable energy in the form of distributed solar power. Image by KCET.org

Originally published on RenewEconomy.

Former head of US largest utility says regulations and business models will not change quick enough to save traditional utilities in face of solar.

Jim Rogers, the recently retired head of Duke Energy, the biggest utility in the US, has had some interesting things to say about the fate of the traditional utility, particularly with the proliferation of rooftop solar.

In an interview with Energy Biz Magazine, Rogers says there is no doubt that utilities are under fire from new technologies such as rooftop solar, and are in danger of losing customers to new players.

Indeed, if he were entering the industry now, that’s where he would want to be – in rooftop solar, attacking the market rather than defending it.

“The utility industry has been like the proverbial frog that’s been put in a pot of cold water, and the heat’s been turned up,” he said in the interview.

“And it’s been turned up slowly. The many challenges ahead are going to fundamentally change this industry.”

“Leaders in this industry in the future are going to have to run to the problems that they see on the horizon, embrace the problems, and then try to convert the problems and challenges they see into opportunities to create value for their customers as well as their investors.”

This is not the first time he has said such a thing, though not quite as dramatically. Last year, Rogers warned that “the progress in solar and storage means that customers may simply use the grid as a back-up some time in the future.”

Asked later in the interview what approach he would take if he were entering the industry now, Rogers initially replied that he would like to come back as David Crane, the CEO of NRG – the largest privately owned generator in the US – who has been extolling the virtue of solar and the transition that would likely create, and warning that customers were likely to disconnect from the grid if utilities did not evolve quickly enough

“Maybe I should take that back,” Rogers added. “I would come into the industry as someone who is an attacker, not a defender. I’d want the solar on the rooftop. I’d want to run that.”

“I’d want the ability to deploy new technologies that lead to productivity gains to the use of electricity in homes and businesses. I would go after the monopoly that I see weakened over the last 25 years.”

“My goal would be to take customers away from utilities as fast as I could, because I think they’re vulnerable. Regulations will not be changed fast enough to protect them. The business model will not be changed fast enough.”

Rogers said all utilities should be making decisions based on the assumption that there will – some day – be a price on carbon.

“Our industry needs to lead on environmental issues. We need to lead on productivity gains in the use of electricity. That’s a critical way for us to continue to reinvent ourselves as an industry.”

Nuclear supporters may be cheered by his outlook for nuclear, which he said would be centred almost entirely around China, and the development of Chinese technology, including modular reactors.

“They will lead the world in the building and operating of new nuclear plants over the next 30 years.”

“They will develop the supply chain and build nuclear plants in a modular fashion. We will have to change our rules and regulations and how we think about the Chinese. They’re going to bring us the nuclear technology to replace our existing plants at a lower cost and build new ones faster than we can.”

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This article, Why Traditional Utility Companies’ Days Are Numbered, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy by Giles Parkinson.Giles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.