Solar Energy Corporation to set up demonstration plants

The newly set up Solar Energy Corporation of India intends to set up a few ‘demonstration plants’, to engender home-grown solar technologies, the Chairman of the Corporation, Dr Anil Kakodkar, told Business Line on Thursday.

The not-for-profit, “Section 25 company”, with an authorised capital of Rs 2,000 crore, has a broad mandate to develop the solar industry in India and to implement the next phases of the National Solar Mission, which is one of the eight National Missions taken under the National Action Plan for Climate Change.

The Corporation is thinking of MW-scale plants, of say, 5 MW, that would adopt global available solar technologies to suit Indian conditions. The first of such plants could come up near an existing R&D centre with sufficient human resources to tap, Dr Kakodkar said, without giving more details.

He said that the objective would be to bring down costs so that solar power is not costlier than conventional power.

Asked for examples of technologies that he had in mind, Dr Kakodkar mentioned variants of concentrated solar power and dust-control innovations.

He noted that it is possible to have large solar collectors on which sun’s rays would fall, then move along the plane of the collectors and finally be gathered into a photovoltaic module. Another variant of CPV that he described was like a combination of tower and PV-mirrors would reflect sunlight on to a reflector on a tower which would in turn beam the rays back on to a PV panel on the ground.

Dr Kakodkar, a nuclear scientist, who headed the Atomic Energy Commission a few years ago, drew a parallel between such solar technologies that could be indigenously developed, and the ‘pressurised heavy water reactors’ that India developed and became masters in, in the atomic energy field.

In the 1970s, when India was denied technology and fuel, the country developed the PHWR type reactors that use Uranium economically. Today, the PHWRs are very competitive.

“Our approach in solar would be driven by that logic,” Dr Kakodkar said.

Answering a question, he said he was in favour of developing a domestic solar equipment industry.

Asked what role the Corporation would have in the upcoming Phase-II of the National Solar Mission, Dr Kakodkar said that the Corporation could own some solar projects. However, they would not be “run of the mill” plants, but those that would demonstrate an evolving technology, he said.

Dr Kakodkar seemed to see a big role for the Corporation in socially-oriented areas such as rural electrification, micro grids and solar lanterns.

He said that the Corporation was working on a ‘public energy outlet’ model. Giving an example to illustrate this he said that it was possible to have a solar plant on the rooftop of, say, a school, where children could bring their solar lamps for charging during the day. These lamps would light up their homes during the nights.