Friends, sorry for not having managed to write blogs off late and it is upon the visit of my Mentor Shri Deepak Gadhia last week that made me sit up and write this blog on possibilities and much needed boost for the Solar Thermal arena across India.
He is now Chairman of a Start-up Sunrise CSP India Pvt. Ltd. & bringing a game-changing Solar Concentrating technology to India with exclusive license from Sunrise CSP,Australia.
Journey to Social Entrepreneurship
Deepak and Shirin Gadhia believed that they would be able to help and contribute by utilizing the Hi-Tech Education they had received in Germany but Dr. Ellen Badoglio a German Economist changed their views. She convinced them that…
What India needed was “Appropriate Technologies and not Hi-Tech Technologies as Hi-Tech did not work in harmony with nature”
Thus on their return to India they started their NGO “Eco Center ICNEER (International Center for Networking, Ecology, Education and Reintegration)” to promote Environmental protection. Seeing deforestation as a major problem and cause for draughts they started promoting solar cookers. The identification of “Solar Concentrator” came from their identifying the need for a Solar Cooker that could cook fast, cook all items and enable cooking in the comfort of the kitchen.
Through their friend/ inventors they brought into India the SK 14 Parabolic domestic Solar Cooker that was developed by their friend Dr. Dieter Seifert of Germany and Community Solar Cookers with Scheffler Concentrator developed by Physicist Wolfgang Scheffler of Austria residing in Germany. They adopted the technologies to Indian conditions, indigenized the same and commercialized them in India.
Developing and Designing the World’s first Solar Steam Cooking System !!
When Brahma Kumari an NGO in Mt. Abu approached them to supply them a Solar Cooking System to cook for 1200 persons Deepak realized that the Scheffler Community Cooking System which brought sun-rays into the kitchen to enable cooking in kitchen would not work.
Deepak was thus forced to think “outside of the box “. With the backing of a leading Thermal Engineering Company HTT GmbH of Germany and in close co-operation and inputs from Wolfgang Scheffler and team of Brahma Kumari’s his company developed the world’s first solar steam cooking system. GATE of Germany supported the Pilot plant by funding it.
Multiplication of Solar Steam Cooking System in India and its success !
The success of the World’s first and largest solar steam cooking system at Brahma Kumari’s led to a breakthrough and Gadhia Solar Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd. and the company went on to become one of the world’s largest and leading Solar Steam Cooking Company.
The company went on to break their records by implementing much larger systems. To name of few the System at Tirupati Temple that cooks 30,000 meals per day and at Shirdi Temple that cooks 50,000 meals per day with solar-generated Steam. The company expanded the market and manufactured, supplied, installed systems for Schools, College Hostels, Temples, Hospitals, Industrial Canteens, Army messes etc. Seeing the needs of Industries that consumes large quantity of conventional fuels like coal, oil, gas for generating steam, Gadhia Solar started designing and offering Solar Steam Systems for Process heating.
They also developed and installed India’s first Solar Air-conditioning Plant (Click Here) of 100 TR (Tonne Refrigeration) where the Solar Generated Steam is used for running a Vapour Absorption Machine (VAM Chiller) to offer cooling of a 160-bed hospital of Muni Seva Ashram.
The success of Scheffler Concentrators led to many different types of Concentrators being developed and introduced and installed in India.
As rightly said- “Nothing succeeds like success” and these led to many different types of Solar Concentrators being developed and installed in India. India has one of the World’s most extensive CST Program supported by MNRE and UNDP.
Focus from Solar Thermal to Just Solar PV !!
No doubt Solar PV has overshadowed Solar Thermal. Solar PV technologies were easy to install and scale-up and India has in just a few years India has been able to scale up from 16 MW to about 35,000 MW and rapidly increasing. The scale of economy has led to has kicked 90 % cost reduction. Government through reverse bidding has been able to reduce the cost of Solar PV power from Rs 18/ KW to Rs 2.38 the latest offer in reverse bid !! (which often makes me wonder whether the Recent Low Solar Bids across India a “TREND” now?! OR Simply “TRENDY” !!)
However, not much work was carried out on the Solar Thermal arena of India in spite of the fact that The production of heat accounts for around one half of energy demand around the globe ! In fact in India, heat accounts for almost two-thirds of total final energy consumption. Currently, hardly about 10-11% of this comes from renewable heating applications &, which excludes the traditional use of biomass which is generally very inefficient and often unsustainable.
India’s energy consumption, heavily fossil-fuel dependent, goes hand-in-hand with the country’s huge industrial demand for heat energy. However, this demand has limited representation from the excellent insolation that India receives, which in annual global horizontal irradiation (GHI) terms has a variation of 1,600-2,000 kWh/m² for almost 250- 300 days a year. The direct normal irradiance (DNI) value averages 5.5 kWh/m²/day due to India’s geographic position in the Equatorial Sun Belt of the earth – which takes the country’s equivalent energy potential to about 6,000 million GWh per year. Though this resource potential is the highest in India’s north-western regions and desert wastelands, the central and southern industrialized states also receive fairly large amounts of direct as well as diffused radiation. Thus, using solar thermal applications in India appears to be a logical solution.
The country now has the sixth largest installed capacity for solar thermal globally, although it still lags behind other emerging economies such as Brazil and Turkey while China remains the global leader in solar thermal capacity by a large margin.
There is also scope for meeting a portion of industrial heat demand with solar heat, especially in industries such as food and drink, agriculture, chemicals and textiles. At present, industrial applications account for less than 1% of total solar thermal installations in India but significant potential has been identified.
The MNRE GEF UNIDO study estimates the CST potential of different sectors:
Limitations of Solar PV over Solar Thermal
Having worked in Solar PV for more than a decade for me, it was straightforward to understand the limitations of PV when pointed out and here below I list a few :
- Dependence of Imported Solar Cells & PV Panels (China has nearly 90 % of the market share globally). Present tensions between India has China demonstrates how the supply chain can pose a significant threat.
- Increase in cost of Solar PV due to safeguard / anti-dumping duty / customs duty etc. will raise the price of Solar PV
- Addition of too much Solar PV power (and Windpower) have led to the problem of Grid Stability
- Solar PV Power can supply cheap Power only during the day as storage in battery increases the cost multi-fold
- Solar value chain (Polysilicon – Ingot – Wafer – Cells) are not manufactured in India and would require multi-crore investments in 100’s and 1000’s of crore investment, and that will take time to be established
- Solar PV systems produce only Power whereas Industries need not only Solar Power in the form of Electricity but UNIDO studies established that nearly 60 % of required Energy by Industries is for heating and cooling and is met by Coal, Oil, Diesel and Gas.
- At present Solar PV has the efficiency of about 19 % and is expected to go up by a few percentages in the near future.
How Solar Thermal Energy can/ will address the limitations of Solar PV/ Wind ?
India will see fast growth in energy demand and will become the third biggest energy consumer of the world by 2025. According to the concentrating solar thermal (CST) Roadmap by GEF-UNIDO, 57% of India’s final energy consumption was in the industry segment in 2017. According to studies the Industrial energy will range between 48% and 55% of all energy demand between 2012 and 2040
- Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) produces Power through thermal route and offers viable solutions to the storage of Power and thus idea for grid stability. These have been recognized and thus all large projects worldwide have Molten Storage to be able to store and provide heat to generate Power during non-sun-shine hours.
- The efficiency of Solar Thermal Plants are high and have shown to be between 50-70 % for heat generation (CST) and about 20-30 % in Power Generation with CSP. In CSP, overall efficiency can go up above 80-90 % if the heat coming out of the turbine is taped and used (co-generation.
- Storage power from Molten Salt storage is nearly half or even more compared to battery power.
- Life of Molten Salt is significantly more than Chemical Storage of/in Battery
- Solar Thermal Plants can be made in India reducing the dependence on Imports
- Solar Thermal Systems generate 2 to 3 X more jobs than Solar PV and will thus create employment in India addressing one of the most significant challenges faced by India – employment of youth.
- CSP can offer both thermal Energy and electrical Energy and thus can be ideal solutions for rural development where they get both electricity for powering their electrical devices and the heat in the form of Steam, thermic fluid, hot air can be used for food processing and cold storages
Reasons I think why Solar Thermal has lost momentum !!
- Though there was an excellent support program by MNRE and UNDP delays in time and disbursal of subsidy and the reduction in subsidy seems to be one of the reason.. The uncertainty is forcing the buyers to put their projects on hold
- Another limitation for CST is the availability of space to install the Solar Thermal Systems. They are heavy and requires large area of a shadow-free area on the ground which often industries do not have.
- The life of Glass Mirrors and other reflectors. The systems installed needed to be shut down for a few months to change the reflectors about every five years adding to cost and down-time
- The Solar Thermal systems could not offer heat/power 24 x 7
- Transport cost of systems was high as the system had to be made in the factory and shipped far away.
- The efficiency of receivers which were capturing the concentrating light (sun rays) and converting them to heat was not most optimum
- Solar thermal power plants need detailed feasibility study and technology identification along with proper solar radiation resource assessment. The current status of international technology and its availability and financial and commercial feasibility in the context of India is not clear.
- One of the limiting factors for Solar thermal sector is that every installation needs detailed engineering, techno-commercial study and specialized installation, unlike for solar photovoltaic (PV), which is comparatively plug-and-play
How the BIG Dish SG4 Sunrise Concentrator addresses above mentioned limitations and thus could become a game-changer !!
- To save space/ reduce footprint the BIG Dish SG4 is like a multi-storey buildings has gone vertical instead of horizontal. A single 25 m diameter dish has 520 m2 aperture diameter just requires a footprint of 25 x 25 meter. It generates approx. 0.5 MWth Solar Thermal Power in form of hot water, steam, hot oil etc
- The life of Glass mirrors offered by Sunrise has 25-30 years similar to that of PV. Sunrise achieves this long life by setting up a Solar Mirror Panel Manufacturing plant in India with the patented technology of Sunrise CSP Australia
- The patented technology-based “receiver” Sunrise CSP India offers would have efficiency above 95 %. ANU has built and demonstrated the 520 m2 BIG dish and Receiver and demonstrated to world highest efficient receiver.
- Sunrise CSP India brings to India patented “Factory in Field” which enables the Solar Concentrator to be manufactured not just in India but at clients site- reducing transport cost and creating local jobs.
- Sunrise CSP India brings patented Solar Thermal Storage in Molten Salt.
- Though a 25-meter diameter dish due to patented technology the Dish was awarded as a light structure- reducing the cost
- The concentration ratio of the system is around 2000 due to which the BIG Dish SG4 can achieve a high temperature in focus above 1700 degree Celsius. This, opening up its future applications not just in a steam generation but its use in manufacturing Hydrogen fuel, Syn gas as Fuel and in manufacturing of ammonia etc.
- Due to high CR and low cost, it can produce Steam at 565 degree Celsius, and 110 which can directly be used in running steam turbines with high efficiency and thus these technology offers its use not just in CST but also CSP.
Wonders this Solar Concentrator can do !
In this Solar Concentrator the heat energy that is captured can be used either directly such as to create electricity through a steam turbine or else can also be stored and used later & not just electricity but the heat can be used to power more than a dozens of Industrial processes as well such as drying solutions, chemical productions, clean water desalination etc and for any processes that require 500 C to 1700 C temperatures !!
Amazing right !!
How it support’s Indian government’s “Make in India” initiative and “Atma-Nirbhar” initiatives ?
Friends, I hope this Blog illustrates how an innovative technology could help our Industries becoming more competitive by its use for heating, cooling and Power.
Not only will its deployment lead to a reduction in the use of conventional energy, but till will also reduce India’s dependence on imports of fuels. By manufacturing in India it will create jobs and reduce drain on foreign exchange.
Good News is that Sunrise CSP India has already received registration under start-up India and MSME. It has also been able to close the first round of funding, and soon a BIG Dish will be installed at Muni Seva Ashram an NGO running a World-Class Cancer Hospital.
Due to exhaustive use of various forms of Renewable Energy by MSA it is often called and known as Green Ashram. It leads the way by being the first in India to have adopt this technology. MSA has had many firsts. India’s first Solar Thermal Air-conditioning Plant was also installed at MSA by Deepak Gadhia and has the first Solar Thermic Fluid system to store Energy cooking at night and to fry and make chappatis.
MSA is a forward-thinking institution that supports and is adopting innovation such as the Big Dish from Industry. It is not afraid to be the first. In contrast, unfortunately, the approach of others is that they do not aspire to be the first and social, and commercialization opportunities are lost and proven elsewhere.
Way forward for Solar Thermal Sector ….
In India, the main drivers for solar thermal are the GEF-UNDP programme for concentrating solar thermal (CST) market development, and the GEF-UNIDO programme for solar thermal industrial process heat. While GEF-UNDP achieved 44,949 m² of CST market, GEF-UNIDO is progressing with an additional 45,000 m² installed area of CST systems. As an incentive, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) offers a 5%-interest loan. This scheme is also extended to manufacturing now, which makes this the first instance of any incentive for the solar thermal manufacturing industry ever announced.
MNRE has estimated the potential of solar thermal collectors to be about 140 million m². The Government of India wants to install 175 GW of renewable energy for power generation and an estimated 20.13 million m² installed area of solar thermal collectors by the year 2022.
The National Solar Mission (NSM), which was announced in January 2010, was a turning point for the solar thermal market development with targets of cumulative solar thermal area of 20 million m² and is spread over three phases:
- Phase 1 : 2010 – 2013 – 7 million m²
- Phase 2 : 2013 – 2017 – 15 million m²
- Phase 3 : 2017 – 2022 – 20 million m²
So What’s Stopping & holding back the adoption of Solar Thermal in India !
- May be a Policy that makes it mandatory for industries to meet a certain percentage of heat through solar collectors ! as what is prevailing in Solar PV currently in many states.
- Massive Lack of awareness amongst bankers and financial institutions about the performance solar concentrators, which drastically impairs their ability to finance projects and provide working capital.
While government is helpful in announcing the solar policies but the bureaucracy is exhausting.
However, I am sure this new solar concentrator technology has great potential to re-start a new Era for Solar Thermal applications in heating, cooling and Power in India !
Meanwhile, please #StaySafe #StayHome & #StayHealthy
And till we meet next time with more updates… !
Solar Project Consultant – India