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.

India Doubles Solar Power Capacity in 2013

by Guest Contributor Ari Phillips.

India almost doubles its installed solar capacity in 2013.
India almost doubles its installed solar capacity in 2013. Solar panels & globe via Shutterstock

Originally published on ClimateProgress.

India added just over 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid last year, a major milestone that nearly doubles the country’s cumulative solar energy capacity to 2.18 gigawatts. After a slow start to the year, solar installation picked up rapidly — a good sign that India will be able to meet its ambitious solar targets going forward. India hopes to install 10 GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched in 2010 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, aims to help the country achieve success with solar energy deployment. India is currently in the planning stages of building the world’s largest solar plant, which would generate 4 gigawatts in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

“This is the first project of this scale anywhere in the world and is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power developments,” Ashvini Kumar, director of Solar Energy Corp, one of five public utilities that will run the plant, told Business Insider.

In the last decade India’s renewable energy capacity has gone from just under 4 GW to over 27 GW as of this month. Wind energy makes up about two-thirds of this total, with small hydropower contributing nearly 4 GW and biomass over 1 GW.

Last weekend India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate to promote renewable energy, especially solar.

“The MoU has come at a time when India is struggling to implement ambitious plans to reach out to the population without access to modern forms of energy across the country,” said Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager at the Climate Group.

40 percent of rural Indian households don’t have power. India is also anxious to develop domestic energy sources to supply growing demand so it doesn’t have to import fossil fuels that contribute to trade deficits. Over half of India’s electric power capacity comes from coal, with coal imports hitting a record high last fiscal year. This is bad both environmentally and economically for India.

In a further indication that renewable energy has a large role to play in India’s future, last year the largest coal company in the world, Coal India, starting pursuing commercial solar power plants to cut costs.

The company explained its logic, in part, by saying “India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.”

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This article, India Nearly Doubled Its Solar Power Capacity In 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Next India Solar Leader, Madhya Pradesh, Aims For 1,400 MW Of Solar By 2015

by Nicholas Brown

Mughal Architecture in Madhya Pradesh.Image Credit: f9photos/Shutterstock.
Mughal Architecture in Madhya Pradesh.Image Credit: f9photos/Shutterstock.

At the moment, Madhya Pradesh, a state in India, has 202 MW of solar PV power capacity installed. However, it intends to crank that up to 1,400 MW by the middle of 2015. That is a bit ambitious. However, India has even bigger solar plans than that, such as a 4,000 MW plant, which would be the world’s largest. It also made a huge leap from 2 MW PV capacity in April 2012 to 202 MW today, and that is expected to increase to 220 MW by the end of 2013.

18 MW isn’t a tremendous increase, although it can still power 6,000 houses.

“In the second quarter of 2013, 191 MW of solar capacity was added in India, of which 145 MW was added in Madhya Pradesh, which is almost 80%,” said Mohanty.

According to PV Magazine, that is part of a much larger renewable energy initiative which involves the installation of 3,800 MW of clean energy projects planned for 2015. 1,900 MW of that will be wind power. Biomass will account for 300 MW, and small hydroelectric power stations 200 MW.

If this initiative is successful, 21.11% of the state’s electricity production capacity will be from renewable energy. In 2012, renewable energy stood at 5%.

S R Mohanty pointed out that: “There are currently 206 projects under execution, which will generate more than 4,000 MW of power through renewable energy.”

Some may argue that India has too much poverty to justify spending money on solar, and that the environment will have to wait. However, solar power costs have dropped tremendously in recent years and solar is actually the cheapest option for new electricity in locations off the grid all across the developing world. Off-grid installation and microgrid installations can take advantage of solar’s distributed and ubiquitous nature. With its solar resources, in India solar power is now cheaper than diesel. (It actually has been since 2011.)

Also, considering the economy, why should they spend even more money on imported  oil (which requires foreign exchange of cash) while they have so much poverty? A major step to getting out of a bad financial situation is owning your own property. That is the same reason why one may save to buy a house, rather than pay rent for the rest of their lives.

If India is going to become economically strong, it should use its tremendous solar and wind resources to make sure it is generating as much of its own energy as possible.

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This article, Next India Solar Leader, Madhya Pradesh, Aims For 1,400 MW Of Solar By 2015, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

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