Smart Cities Require Solar And Green Products
India is proactively promoting the use of renewable energy resources through various programmes such as the National Solar Mission (NSM) launched in 2010. Our country is the only one in the world to have an exclusive ministry for renewable energy development, which is called the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. The creation of smart cities calls for higher energy consumption and the consequent increase in demand for sustainable energy solutions.
The Indian government has recently announced plans to create ultra-mega solar projects to meet the imminent increase in energy demand. The aim is towards attaining 175GW of renewable energy capacity, by 2022. Currently, India's cumulative capacity of solar grid is 12.50 GW. The total renewable capacity covering solar, wind, small hydel and bio-power, has seen an increase from 35GW to 57GW in three years.
It has been proposed that 10% of the energy requirements of smart cities will be met by solar energy and about 80% buildings will be made energy-efficient and green. Other initiatives led by the government in the last two years, include the development of solar scheme for CPUs, solar PV power plants on canal banks and canal tops, solar pumps, solar rooftops, etc.
A solar park is a concentrated zone of development of solar power generation projects. The Solar Park Scheme will benefit developers through provision of incentives in the form of allocation of land, transmission and evacuation lines, access roads, availability of water, etc.
The government is planning to ensure the smooth integration of solar power and other renewable energy sources. This will include updating transmission capacities and linking solar parks to the national grid. Plans are underway to set up around 50 solar parks by 2019-20, at an estimated Central Financial Assistance of Rs 8,100 crore.
However, some roadblocks on the path to smooth implementation of the projects include lack of manufacturing facility for silicon wafers, land clearances and grid management issues. Another drawback of the use of renewable energy for powering smart cities, is the possible reduction in output of solar arrays in the absence of the sun. To mitigate the impact of overcast weather, tech giant IBM is strategising plans for accurately predicting cloud cover. This will enable effective planning of the power loads.
Similarly, regarding the use of other cleaner energy alternatives such as natural gas, there is a dearth of proper infrastructure for its distribution. Besides, suitable implementation of economic policies and regulatory actions, are the need of the hour.
Growing awareness among citizens
There has been a growing awareness among citizens, of the benefits of sustainable products like solar street lights, smart meters, solar water heaters, etc. According to a report by Amazon India, demand for solar-powered and green products online viz. solar lamps and lanterns is the highest in tier-II and tier-III cities. Novel concepts such as hydroponics, organic gardening, home composting, air purifying plants and drip irrigation, have garnered interest among consumers in India.
Innovations in solar power generation
Scientists in India have successfully designed a 'solar tree' which is a tree-like structure with vertically oriented steel branches. Adjustable solar panels are placed on these branches at different levels, which get charged during the day and automatically switch on LED lights after dusk. The major advantage of this product is that it just requires about 4 sq ft of land in contrast to the land requirement of 400 sq meters to develop a solar park. Moreover, the solar tree has the capacity to light up five houses and could be used for street-lighting, industrial power supply systems as well as in rural areas.
Benefits of solar energy
- Once installed, solar energy based products like solar panels require minimum maintenance.
- They are silent producers of electricity and do not create noise.
- Solar electricity power plants are known for producing zero emissions and thus, help curtail air pollution.
- Solar power is cheaper compared to other power sources and reduces power costs.