Big solar projects favoured over mini grids

Budget gives boost to solar powered agricultural pumps

By Ankur Paliwal
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015


Highlighting new and renewable energy as the high priority sector, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley focused more on the big solar power projects in his budget speech, neglecting decentralized mini and micro grid solar projects for rural areas of the country. However, solar power agricultural pumps have been given a big boost in the budget.  
The BJP-led NDA government has taken up the Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects (UMSPPs) announced by the previous UPA government in Rajasthan, Gujarat,and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Jaitley has allocated Rs 500 crore for these projects. The projects received flak from some renewable energy experts advocating the need of mini-grids over big solar projects. Jaitley has added Tamil Nadu in the list of states where UMPPs will be set up.
Solar power project developers have expressed happiness over the announcement. “The government must be congratulated for laying a roadmap for solar power generation in the country. The ultra mega solar power projects are going to help in a big way in ensuring clean energy. The only constraint with big projects is geographical, which may affect its sustainability,” said Disha Banerjee, secretary general, Solar Power Developers Association. 

However, some renewable energy experts believe that these ultra mega solar projects would feed electricity into the leaking grid and provide subsidized power to the rich, while the focus should have been on the mini and micro grids in the rural areas. As per the Census 2011, one-third of households—about 400 million people—do not have access to electricity. “Solar energy is decentralised—sunlight falls everywhere. Demand for electricity too is decentralised. This makes solar PV technology, which is modular, most suitable for decentralised generation and consumption,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of Delhi based non-profit, Centre for Science and Environment.

“The focus of the government is on providing 24X7 electricity to all, which is difficult to achieve without mini-solar grids in rural areas. We need to understand how the government plans to do that,” added Banerjee.      

Targeting an important sector of agricultural pump sets, Jaitley announced that a scheme will be launched for solar power driven agricultural pump sets and water pumping stations for energizing 100,000 pumps. The budget has allocated Rs 400 crore for this purpose. The move has been welcomed by all quarters. An additional Rs 100 crore has been allocated for the development of 1 MW solar parks on the banks of canals.

Key Features of Budget 2014-2015

Budget 2014-15: Speech of Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance

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  • Interesting article. While

    Interesting article.
    While appreciating the impetus given to Solar Energy in the recent budget, let us see the status of Solar Pumps. Perhaps solar pumps are heavily subsidised. Solar Pumps pump water from open wells with efficiency but not deep bore wells which are there in most cases. Solar Pump peak efficiency is between 10 am and 3 pm. People are given an impression that Solar Energy is free. Did anybody carried out life cycle cost of Solar Pumps? Without heavy subsidy for Solar Pumps where do the Solar Pumps stand with Conventional Agricultural pumpsets. Electricity for Agriculture is nominal or nil in some states. What ever saving claimed on Solar Power is confined to that unit only. On the other hand there are 2.6 Crore Agricultural pump sets which are old and inefficient in many cases. A scheme can be chalked out by Central and State Governments to replace these inefficient pumpsets with Efficient ones. Out of Rs 20,000 per 5 Hp Pump set, a subsidy of Rs 15000 can be given and the Farmer can invest Rs 5000. From the old pump set the Farmer can recover about Rs 3000. In essence the Farmer invests just Rs 2000 . The Government should never give free anything to free for people. There must be beneficiary's share in any scheme. In 8os over 4000 Water pumping Windmills were distributed free of cost under demonstration scheme by DNES(Now MNRE). In AP then NEDCAP installed about 500 of these Windmills at Bus stands and at places which are not windy as they were to meet target. 3 Water pumping windmills were put up in our Fields in Muthukur,PSR District,AP. They were blown away in simple gale. Not even a single water pumping windmill exists. This experience should serve as eye opener for propagating Solar Pumps. The cost of the water pumping windmill at that time was Rs 20,000. A good water pumping windmill used to cost Rs 1 lakh. This is how Excellent Renewables are proved as failure.
    I have had been advocating Biofuel/Biogas for power generation through Agave and Opuntia which are care-free growh, regenerative CAM Plants.
    Though there are ongoing major wind and solar projects, Biofuel/biogas for power offer promise in India being an agrarian economy.
    Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the inedible parts of plants.
    It is a type of biofuel produced from ligno cellulose, a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. Ligno cellulose is composed mainly of cellulose, hemi cellulose and lignin. Corn stover, Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), Miscanthus grass species, wood chips and the byproducts of lawn and tree maintenance are some of the more popular cellulosic materials for ethanol production. Production of ethanol from ligno cellulose has the advantage of abundant and diverse raw material compared to sources such as corn and cane sugars, but requires a greater amount of processing to make the sugar monomers available to the microorganisms typically used to produce ethanol by fermentation.
    Switch grass and Miscanthus are the major biomass materials being studied today, due to their high productivity per acre. Cellulose, however, is contained in nearly every natural, free-growing plant, tree, and bush, in meadows, forests, and fields all over the world without agricultural effort or cost needed to make it grow.
    According to Michael Wang of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which most frequently uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, may not reduce GHG emissions at all depending on how the starch-based feedstock is produced. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there is no commercially viable bio-refinery in existence to convert lignocellulosic biomass to fuel Absence of production of cellulosic ethanol in the quantities required by the regulation was the basis of a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision announced January 25, 2013 voiding a requirement imposed on car and truck fuel producers in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring addition of cellulosic biofuels to their products.These issues, along with many other difficult production challenges, lead George Washington University policy researchers to state that "in the short term, [cellulosic] ethanol cannot meet the energy security and environmental goals of a gasoline alternative."
    Agave tequilana weber can yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre per year and from 12,000-18,000 gallons per acre per year if their cellulose is included, some 14 dry tons of feedstock per acre every year.
    These figures far outshine the plants that are dominating ethanol and bio fuels R&D and investment today, not only in terms of potential ethanol yield per acre, but also in terms of energy balance (the ratio of energy in the product to the energy input to produce it), as well as actual and prospective planted acreage.
    Corn ethanol, for example, has an energy balance ratio of 1.3 and produces approximately 300-400 gallons of ethanol per acre. Soybean bio diesel with an energy balance of 2.5, typically can yield 60 gallons of bio diesel per acre while an acre of sugar cane can produce 600-800 gallons of ethanol with an energy balance of 8.0. An acre of poplar trees can yield more than 1,500 gallons of cellulosic ethanol with an energy balance of 12.0, according to a National Geographic study published in October 2007.

    Another of the peculiarities of the nopal is biogas which is the same molecule of natural gas, but its production does not require machines or devices of high complexity. Also, unlike natural gas, contains primarily methane (75%), carbon dioxide (24%) and other minor gases (1%), ÔÇ£so it has advantages from the technical point of view since it has the same capacity heat but is cleaner, ÔÇ£he says, and as sum datum its calorific value is 7,000 kcal/m3. Javier Snchez et al in their extensive study on Opuntia as potential input for bio ethanol concluded:

    ÔÇ£Prickly pear is a widely-known crop in the SE of Spain, where it is currently used for forage, fodder and fruit. Now it is being considered as a potential crop for bio ethanol production from its whole biomass. In order to estimate the potential bio ethanol production in the province of Almeria (SE-Spain) and the optimal location of bioethanol processing plants, a GIS analysis involving a predictive yield model of prickly pear biomass was undertaken following specific restriction criteria. According to this analysis, the total potential bio ethanol production in Almeria would be up to 502,927.8 t dmÔÇóyearÔÇô1 from 100,616 ha maximum that could be cultivated with prickly pear, with a calculated yield ranging between 4.2 and 9.4 t dmÔÇóhaÔÇô1ÔÇóyearÔÇô1. An exclusive suitability analysis and a preferable suitability analysis based on the.
    Analytic Hierarchy Process were performed in order to estimate the optimal location of the subsequent processing plants within AlmeriaÔÇÖs road network by a discrete location-allocation model.ÔÇØ(Javier Snchez , Francisco Snchez , Mara Dolores Curt & Jess Fernndez (2012) Assessment of the bioethanol potential of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.) biomass obtained from regular crops in the province of Almeria (SE Spain), Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, 60:3, 301-318).
    In India there is vast area of Wastelands.
    Here are details:
    Total Wastelands in the country:
    Wastelands ( during 2008-09.
    Major area of Wastelands in different States in India(
    1.Andhra Pradesh 37296.62.
    2 Arunachal Pradesh 14895.24.
    3 Assam 23 78438 8778.02 8453.86 -324.15 862.56 538.04 11.19 10.78 -0.41.
    4 Bihar 37 94171 6841.09 9601.01 2759.92 1895.09 4654.41 7.26 10.20 2.93.
    5 Chattisgarh 11482.
    6.Gujarat 20108.06 9.
    7.Himachal Pradesh 22347.88.
    8.Jharkhand 11017.38 13 Karnataka 13030.62.
    9.Madhya Pradesh 40113.27.
    10.Maharashtra 37830.82
    11 Orissa 16425.76 22.
    12.Rajasthan 84929.10 24.
    13.Tamilnadu 30 130058 9125.56 8721.79 -403.77 426.78 22.74 7.02 6.71 -0.31.
    14.Tripura 4 10486 1315.17 964.64 -350.53 486.15 135.07 12.54 9.20 -3.34.
    15.Uttarakhand 12859.53
    (Taken from Table-3: Category wise total area under wastelands ( during 2008-09 vis-a-vis 2005-06 and change in different categories, (Change Analysis based on temporal satellite data of 2005-06 and 2008-09), Wastelands Atlas of India 2011, (Change Analysis based on temporal satellite data of 2005-06 and 2008-09), Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India, New Delhi: Land Use and Cover Monitoring Division (LRUMG), Remote Sensing & GIS Applications Area, National Remote Sensing Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Dept. of Space, Govt. of India, Hyderabad).
    In these waste lands care-free growth, regenerative, CAM plants like Agave and Opuntia can be grown on a massive scale to produce Biofuel/Biogas generation for power at local level. Unemployed Youth can be assigned waste lands of about 10 acres each and they can grow the above plants. This way the wastelands will be cultivated, providing employment to youth. Also large plantations of Agave and Opuntia being CAM Plants help as Carbon Sink. Mexico is pioneer in Biofuel/biogas for power from Agave and Opuntia. Biogas can also be used to run diesel modified engines.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India.
    Renewable Energy Expert.

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