The Indian power ministry has revealed that it is in discussion with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to procure its latest solar powered battery storage technology. The Indian government has proposed that the technology be developed for commercial purposes under the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.
The battery storage system would be a blessing for the recently announced National Solar Mission which aims at increasing country’s solar power generation capacity to 20,000 MW over the next one decade. Representatives from the Indian government will be travelling to the US to discuss issues related to Intellectual Property Rights and license to manufacture the product on a large scale.
India has huge solar energy potential but storage of generated power remains of the biggest obstacles in widespread deployment of the solar energy infrastructure. While the domestic solar panels manufacturers are waiting for a clear policy regarding promotion of solar energy through subsidies and financial incentives the government has expressed intentions of setting up large scale solar energy farms and distributed solar energy schemes like feed-in tariffs systems in cities.
Distributed solar power generation would be a major part of the National Solar Mission. Power companies in capital New Delhi have announced plans to start feed-in tariff schemes and Tata Power is already running a pilot project to study the aspects related to smart metering and supply of power to the grid.
The Indian government is planning to present its National Solar Mission as part of its voluntary mitigation measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and would look to get access to international monetary aid to finance the project. But in order to achieve the target of 20,000 MW installation in ten years the government would need to address several issues.
One of the issues is the lack of incentives to domestic solar panels’ manufacturers which have to import most of the solar panels to other countries because of low demand and high price of the panels in India. The government has signalled that the solar energy sector would get incentives in the annual budget to be presented next month.
Another issue is the lack of knowledge or interest in solar energy in the general public. Even though the government provides subsidy on the installation of solar heating devices very few people actually purchase them partly because they are unaware about the equipment or technology and partly because of lack of such schemes. And in a country like India where a huge majority of people do not know about climate change and its potential adverse impacts, it would be difficult for the government to popularize the expensive solar energy systems.
Thirdly, there are issues of grid integration of rooftop solar energy systems as part of the feed-in tariff systems. India has no exposure to the technical obstacles of achieving reverse power supply to the grid. Challenges remains in technical aspects of such an operation like maintenance of consistant frequency and measurement of power supplied. Hopefully, India would be able to form more of such partnerships in order to get access to latest technology from countries which have experience in these areas.
While the National Solar Mission is commendable as it aims to shift a substantial chunk of Indias power generation capability to renewable energy source, the government would need to address several issues and overcome many obstacles in order to make the mission a success. Technological assistance and latest technology with higher efficiency are essential for widespread deployment of solar energy infrastructure in the country.
Image Credit: Amaresh S K (Creative Commons)
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.
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