Introduction of Solar Technology in India
Solar panels are a great source of energy. They are cheap and reliable. Also, various consumers can use it for shops, commercial offices, homes, or industries. However, installing solar panels on rooftops is difficult due to technical challenges such as shading, glare, size & space constraints, and economic, technical, and heat loss.
Shri. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, during the budget session of 2022, set the target of 300 Giga Watts of solar-powered generation by 2030.
To achieve the mammoth target of 300 Giga Watts by 2030, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) floated a tender for a production-linked incentive scheme (PLI). IREDA has announced PLI benefits worth 44.50 INR billion for a total solar panel manufacturing capacity of 10,483 MW.
The Indian energy market started to grow from 2015-16. New companies also entered the solar energy market with the backup of inventive policies by state and central governments. The solar energy market in India evolved to the next level.
Types of solar panels in India
Technologically solar panels are broadly classified into monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels are 15%-25% more efficient than polycrystalline solar panels of the same capacity.
Thus Monocrystalline solar panels offer better performance under a cloudy atmosphere & generate more electricity compared to polycrystalline.
Monocrystalline solar panel benefits/pros-
- Efficiency -They are 15-25% more efficient than polycrystalline solar panels of the same capacity.
- Performance- Electricity generation is less affected under adverse atmospheric conditions such as cloudy atmosphere & rainy season.
- Space management- They are compact in size and hence generate more electricity in the same space compared to polycrystalline solar panels.
- Life/Warranty - Life expectancy is more than polycrystalline solar panels (Some manufacturers are offering 30 years warranty on Mono Panels!)
- Future scope / R&D- Since monocrystalline solar panels are technologically superior & offer better performance, manufacturers have come up with the latest solar panels, such as "Half-Cut solar panels" and "Bi-facial solar panels."
Monocrystalline solar panel negatives/cons-
- Monocrystalline solar panels are 10-15% costlier than polycrystalline solar panels of the same capacity.
What makes solar-powered systems different from other energy sources?
- Solar energy is the free form of energy & India is blessed with vast solar energy potential. Bharat receives around 5,000 trillion kWh of energy every year.
- India receives sun rays 300 days a year, and such vast Sunpower around the year assists huge solar electricity generation possibilities.
- India receives sunlight 10 hours a day during the summer and winter seasons. Considering a 1000 Watts/1 Kilowatt solar electric plant, one can expect daily 4000-5000 Watts / 4-5 kilowatt electricity generation.
- Even though the initial investment is considered on the higher side for the solar-powered system, the operating cost is negligible. It is limited to solar panel cleaning & general inspections.
- In the case of solar-powered systems, there are no rotating parts, unlike generators in fossil fuels and windmills, and hence no conversion losses.
- Solar photovoltaic systems don't need fuel to generate electricity like in the case of diesel-biodiesel-powered generators.
- Hence, a solar-powered system is considered cost-effective compared to other renewable and non-renewable energy systems.
A brief introduction to solar-powered plants and how they work.
- Solar-powered plants are categorized as on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid systems.
- On-grid solar systems are powered by solar & grid/distribution company supply. In case of non-availability of grid/distribution supply on grid systems won't work. Since there are no batteries in on-grid systems, they are the cheapest solar systems. However, they require different compliances to the distribution company, state & energy regulating commission's policies/rules. On-grid systems are recommended for urban, metro, and semi-urban areas where power availability is round the clock. The net metering facility is available in on-grid systems.
- Off-Grid solar systems are different in a way that it includes batteries & provides backup even during breakdown or load-shedding. (Off-grid solar systems provide power backup in case of non-availability of grid/distribution company supply). Off-grid systems are suited for the hilly, forest, and rural areas where power availability is poor and frequent breakdowns disrupt the supply. They don't require strict compliances like on-grid systems, so the installation is quick and relatively simple. Off-grid systems cost 15-40% more than on-grid systems, and the price difference increases with capacity. Small off-grid systems such as solar home light and solar home panel systems, powered by batteries and cost less than 3,000 INR, are mobile solar panel systems. The net metering facility is not allowed on off-grid solar rooftop systems.
- The hybrid solar system has the advantage of both on-grid & off-grid solar rooftop systems. One can install net metering for solar rooftop projects and benefit from power backup in case of power failure. An electric supply from the grid /distribution company and batteries are given to hybrid solar rooftop systems. Hybrid solar systems are complex to install and maintain and need higher investment than on-grid and off-grid systems.
How do you choose the right solar panel system for your needs?
- An off-grid solar rooftop system shall be the first choice for the consumers in remote, village, or hilly areas facing frequent load-shedding and breakdowns where power availability is a major concern rather than electricity bills.
- An on-grid solar rooftop system shall be the first choice for consumers in the metro, urban, and semi-urban areas. The on-grid system comes at lower costs and benefits electricity savings.
- A hybrid solar rooftop system shall be preferred by the consumers living in semi-rural and rural areas. Such areas where load-shedding is not frequent but powercuts are. A hybrid solar system gives the benefits of net metering and power backups.
- Small solar or home light systems shall be installed by roadside small shop owners who require 4-5 led bulbs and 1-2 fans. Such systems generally work on direct current (DC) supply and are easy to carry/shift.
- Where space is deciding criteria and the initial investment is not an issue, then go with the monocrystalline solar rooftop system.
- Where space is not the deciding criteria and sunlight is available round the year, go with the polycrystalline solar rooftop system.
- For hill stations, resorts on high hills, and rainy atmospheric locations, go with the monocrystalline half-cut or bi-facial solar panels.
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