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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 20 October 2021

Contents

  1. Tamil Nadu – A global player in solar power
  2. Vulnerability to retreat of southwest monsoon

Tamil Nadu – A global player in solar power

Context:

Large-scale solar projects in Tamil Nadu have seen rapid growth in recent years (in the past five years, the cumulative installed capacity witnessed a four-fold increase).

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Solar Energy, Renewable Energy), GS-III: Science and Technology (Indigenization of Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Solar Energy market in India
  2. Solar Energy in India and Dependence of China
  3. Steps taken in India
  4. Evolving technologies in the solar voltaic sector
  5. Other Improvements
  6. How to support and mainstream solar PV technology into India’s energy market?

About the Solar Energy market in India

  • There has been a significant progress in solar capacity addition since 2014, with India progressively emerging as the world’s third largest solar market.
  • Just before the Paris climate summit in 2015, the Government of India had said it would install 175 GW of renewable power by 2022, including 100 GW of solar power.
  • Solar power in India is a fast-developing industry. The country’s solar installed capacity reached 35.12 GW as of 30 June 2020. India has the lowest capital cost per MW globally of installing solar power plants.
  • There are more than 40 Major Solar power plants in India, which generates atleast 10 MW of power.
  • India lying in tropical belt has an advantage of receiving peak solar radiation for 300 days, amounting 2300-3,000 hours of sunshine equivalent to above 5,000 trillion kWh.
  • Rooftop solar power accounts for 2.1 GW, of which 70% is industrial or commercial. In addition to its large-scale grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) initiative, India is developing off-grid solar power for local energy needs.
  • Solar products have increasingly helped to meet rural needs; by the end of 2015 just under one million solar lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene.

Recent need to focus on Solar Energy in India

  • The sharp decline in the prices of solar cells has resulted in cost competitiveness of solar energy with the more traditional thermal power. This has helped increase the uptake of solar energy in India.
  • The growing emphasis on renewable energy adoption as part of the climate action efforts to offset the emission of GHG from the more traditional fossil fuel-based energy plants has only increased the focus on solar energy.

Solar Energy in India and Dependence of China

  • India’s solar story is largely built over imported products.
  • The domestic solar equipment manufacturing industry has largely failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
  • Nearly 80% of the solar inputs and components are imported from China.
  • The reason for this is that Solar cell manufacturing is a complicated process that is technology and capital intensive and it also upgrades every 8-10 months.
  • Further, the global market of solar wafer and ingot manufacturing is dominated by China, who uses anti-competitive measures to dump cheap solar equipment into India.

Steps taken in India

  • The National Solar Mission is a major initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenge.
  • Sustainable rooftop implementation of Solar transfiguration of India (SRISTI) scheme envisages to promote rooftop solar power projects in India.
  • The KUSUM scheme would provide additional income to farmers, by giving them the option to sell additional power to the grid, through solar power projects set up on their barren lands.
  • Through the establishment of International Solar Alliance (ISA), India envisages the world to leverage solar energy potential of more than 122 countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn to promote solar energy.

Evolving technologies in the solar voltaic sector

First generation solar cells

  • ‘First-generation’ solar cells use mono-crystalline and multi-crystalline silicon wafers. Crystalline silicon technologies currently occupy 95% of the global photovoltaic (PV) market with the predominance of mono-crystalline cells.
  • While mono-crystalline silicon wafer is made from a single crystal of silicon (of higher purity), multi-crystalline silicon wafers are made by combining several fragments of silicon wafers.
  • Mono-crystalline panels exhibit comparatively higher efficiencies. Thus, they exhibit greater energy yield and lower cost of energy.
  • Mono-crystalline panels are priced higher than multi-crystalline ones. However, the difference has been diminishing and is expected to attain parity soon.
  • Bifacial solar cells: Bifacial solar cells implement newer technologies incorporating crystalline silicon focus on bifacial solar cells, capable of harvesting energy from both sides of the panel. Bifacials can augment the power output by 10-20%.

Second generation solar PVs

  • The thin film technologies are classified as the ‘second generation’ of solar PVs.
  • They are manufactured by depositing single or multiple layers of PV material on a substrate like plastic or glass. The PV material used includes semiconductors like Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) or crystalline silicon.
  • Given their low thickness, light weight and flexibility they can be placed on electronic devices and vehicles thus helping augment the solar PV area.
  • The lower efficiency of thin films as compared to that of crystalline silicon has affected their popularity and market share.

Third generation solar cells

  • New and upcoming solar cells are grouped as ‘third generation’ and contain technologies such as perovskite, nanocrystal and dye-sensitised solar cells.
  • Perovskite: A perovskite is a material that has the same crystal structure as the mineral calcium titanium oxide, the first-discovered perovskite crystal. A large number of different elements can be combined together to form perovskite structures. Using this compositional flexibility, scientists can design perovskite crystals to have a wide variety of physical, optical, and electrical characteristics. Perovskite crystals are being used in solar cells. Perovskites based solar cells have achieved cell efficiency of around 18%. They have the highest potential to replace silicon and disrupt the solar PV market, due to factors such as ease of manufacture, low production costs and potential for higher efficiencies.
  • Nanocrytal and dye-sensitised solar cells: Nanocrystal and dye-sensitised solar cells are variants of the thin film technology. These are in early stages for large-scale commercial deployment. Nanocrystal solar cells are solar cells based on a substrate with a coating of nanocrystals. The nanocrystals are typically based on silicon or CdTe and the substrates are generally silicon or various organic conductors. Dye-sensitized solar cells are another related approach, but in this case, the nano-structuring is part of the substrate.
  • Quantum dot solar cells: Quantum dot solar cells use Graphene Quantum-dots for solar PVs. Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together as hexagons. Quantum dot solar cells take advantage of quantum mechanical effects and offer high theoretical efficiency of 60% and also offer super capacitating quality.

Other Improvements

  • While major attention has been on increasing the efficiency of solar PVs, considerable advances have also been made in developing solutions that better integrate solar PVs into the grid.
  • These include weather forecasting and power output prediction systems; operation monitoring and control systems; and scheduling and optimisation systems.
  • Additionally, automatic systems have been developed for the smooth resolution of output fluctuations. This becomes extremely relevant given the fluctuating nature of solar energy.

How to support and mainstream solar PV technology into India’s energy market?

  • A portion of the budget for renewable energy targets should be set aside exclusively for new technologies.
  • Grants and subsidies must be provided for the adoption of new technologies. This will help mitigate the higher initial costs and help fast-track the adoption of new technologies in this ever-evolving solar PV sector.
  • Sector-specific investment and incentives should be used to address gaps in research, development, and manufacturing capabilities in the solar sector.
  • There should be ample and affordable funding opportunities for start-ups in this sector.
  • There must be greater industry-academia collaborations in this sector to boost research and development.

-Source: The Hindu


Vulnerability to retreat of southwest monsoon

Context:

The retreating monsoon has resulted in heavy rainfall along parts of northern Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha, Gangetic Bengal and the northeastern States, leaving a trail of destruction in several districts.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Climatology, Important Geophysical Phenomenon, Monsoon and its impact),

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Monsoon?
  2. Causes of Monsoon
  3. Importance of Monsoon for India
  4. Vulnerability of Indian states to monsoon fluctuations
  5. Recommendations and Way Forward

What is Monsoon?

  • Monsoon connotes the climate associated with a seasonal reversal in the direction of winds. India has a hot monsoonal climate which is the prevalent climate in the south and southeast Asia.
  • The Indian summer monsoon typically lasts from June-September with large areas of western and central India receiving more than 90% of their total annual precipitation during the period, and southern and northwestern India receiving 50%-75% of their total annual rainfall.
  • Overall, monthly totals average 200-300 mm over the country as a whole, with the largest values observed during the heart of the monsoon season in July and August.

Causes of Monsoon

  • During the summer months, sunlight heats the surfaces of both lands and oceans, but land temperatures rise more quickly due to a lower heat capacity.
  • As the land’s surface becomes warmer, the air above it expands and an area of low pressure develops.
  • Meanwhile, the ocean remains at a lower temperature than the land and so the air above it retains a higher pressure.
  • Since winds flow from areas of the high-pressure area to low, this deficit in pressure over the continent causes winds to blow in an ocean-to-land circulation (a sea breeze).
  • As winds blow from the ocean to the land, moist air is brought inland. This is why summer monsoons cause so much rain.

Importance of Monsoon for India

The Monsoon is one of the most important single variables in the Indian economy as a good monsoon can reduce the burden on the government, while a bad one can make it spend more.

Positive effects of Monsoon

  • The agricultural prosperity of India depends very much on time and adequately distributed rainfall. If it fails, agriculture is adversely affected particularly in those regions where means of irrigation are not developed.
  • Regional variations in monsoon climate help in growing various types of crops.
  • Regional monsoon variation in India is reflected in the vast variety of food, clothes and house types.
  • Monsoon rain helps recharge dams and reservoirs, which is further used for the generation of hydroelectric power.
  • Winter rainfall by temperate cyclones in north India is highly beneficial for Rabi crops.

Negative effects of Monsoon

  • Variability of rainfall brings droughts or floods every year in some parts of the country.
  • Sudden monsoon burst creates a problem of soil erosion over large areas in India.
  • In hilly areas, sudden rainfall brings landslide which damages natural and physical infrastructure subsequently disrupting human life economically as well as socially.

Vulnerability of Indian states to monsoon fluctuations

  • The variations in the pattern and intensity of the Indian Monsoons pose a rising challenge to India given the precarity of living conditions of millions of people in the country.
  • Several states face climate change impacts and extreme weather events. Kerala, which hosts a vast stretch of the Western Ghats, is having to contend with this challenge more than any other state, with almost continuous severe monsoons and associated destruction over the past few years.

Recommendations and Way Forward

  • There is ample evidence to indicate the impact of human activities in increasing the vulnerability to extreme weather events. Increased quarrying activity in central Kerala districts is believed to be contributing to increased instances of mudslides in the region.
  • Despite land being an extremely scarce resource, expanding economic activity to montane forests is unsustainable in the long run and such interventions should be avoided to the maximum extent possible.
  • There is the need to adopt a development policy that treats nature as an asset, and not an impediment.
  • Accurately mapped hazard zones should inform all decisions in the vulnerable regions.
  • To face heavy monsoons, States must preserve the integrity of rivers and mountains.
  • Nurturing the health of rivers and keeping them free of encroachments, protecting the integrity of mountain slopes by ending mining, deforestation and incompatible construction should be the top priority in the governmental measures.
  • Similar suggestions have been made by the Madhav Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats as well.

-Source: The Hindu

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