India’s energy consumption has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world due to population growth and economic development, but it remains woefully constrained in terms of overall energy availability. Resource augmentation and growth in energy supply has not kept pace with increasing demand and, therefore, India continues to face serious energy shortages. Moreover, the rush to increase energy supplies has led to various environmental consequences, be it through climate change or in the case of coal mining.
Over the last few years, there has been a shift in stance in the power corridors and alternative sources of energy have received a huge impetus. West Bengal too has seen a greater emphasis on renewable sources of energy from the current regime. Harnessing solar energy to increase the power capacity of the state is one of the initiatives of the state worthy of mention. The plan has assumed importance in light of the rising cost of coal.
Bengal’s Solar Mission
“Today we are producing about 193 MW renewable power. Our target by the end of the 12th Plan is 1,040 MW. Most of it would be solar power,” state Power Minister Manish Gupta said at an energy conclave of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, held earlier this month.
The minister also suggested that private sector companies should also step in to facilitate the establishment of the units in the districts of Bankura and Purulia, which receive a large amount of sunlight.
Bengal will try to enforce renewable purchase obligation (RPO) on power utilities by the end of this year, which mandates power distributors to buy a portion of their requirement from clean energy sources.
According to Manish Gupta, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (WBSEDCL) already has a mix of seven to eight per cent of renewable energy in the entire distribution. CESC and DVC are set to follow soon and meet the obligations.
In another initiative to reduce the use of fossil fuel energy to some extent, solar panels are going to be installed on the sprawling rooftop of Writer’s Building to make it energy-efficient. Specially designed window glass panes with solar cells are also to be used during the renovation process of this heritage building that also serves as the state Secretariat.
"To utilise these rays, the specially-designed glass panel with building integrated photo voltaic cells (BIPV solar panel) should be put up on the front side of the building. These BIPV solar panels allow the light to pass and will keep away the heat, thus making the rooms cooler and use of air conditioners can be reduced," said Dr S P Gon Chowdhury, a solar energy expert.
Floating Solar Power Stations
It’d be worth a note here that India’s first floating solar power station may soon come up in Kolkata. Floating solar power stations will come up in the city’s landmark Victoria Memorial. It could also be set up in the water reservoirs and dams of hydroelectric power stations, increasing their output. Each station would require around 3,000 square feet of space to generate 20 KW power.
“Developing a floating solar power station would prove to be revolutionary as it could solve the perennial problem of land. Such pilot projects are also going on in a few countries such as France and Australia. Studies have also shown that if the rear surface of solar panels is cool, then their ability to generate power goes up by 16 per cent. As these solar panels would be floating on water, they are expected to stay cool and hence we can generate more power than those set up on land,” SP Gon Choudhury, a solar energy expert, and the brain behind this project, informed the media.
A raft-like platform, fitted with hollow plastic or tin drums, would be floating on water and the panels would be fitted on this allowing them to float on water. It would also help conserve water as panels would cut off the direct sunlight reduce the rate of evaporation. Such solar power stations comprise floating platforms (usually hexagonal) fitted with solar panels to generate more energy than land-based plants.
Renewable energy sources are more viable for rural Bengal and can have a definitive impact on socio-economic development of the state. Adoption of energy-efficiency and new technologies can produce a much faster result, paving way for developing a low-carbon world.