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Round-up 2010: Best of solar photovoltaics

December 30, 2010 2 comments

Solar photovoltaics (PV) constantly reminds me of the early days of the telecom industry. Perhaps, the similarity lies in practically anyone and everyone wants to enter the solar/PV industry as well, just like it happened in telecom — before the industry consolidation started to happen.

In India, a lot more talk has happened since the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) was unveiled. With 2010 now drawing to an end, here’s presenting the top posts for solar PV from the year that is about to leave all of us!

Want to enter solar off-grid business? Build your own solar LED lanterns and emergency lights! — This was a smashing superhit! So many folks have accessed this post and quite a few commented! Definitely, my no. 1 post for the year and among my top 10 posts for 2010!

Union budget 2010: Solar, UIDs all the way!

NI DAQ workshop: Sun tracker suitable for Indian (and global) solar/PV industry

India to miss NSM target? No, it’s likely a mistake (in reporting)! — The faux pas of the year! 😉

SEMI India benchmarks India’s NSM on global FIT best practices — Goes on to show why SEMI continues to be a top notch industry association!

RoseStreet Labs develops breakthrough multiband solar cell technology! — I enjoyed writing this post a lot!

Solar PV heats up in India — NVVN signs MoU with 16 developers; new guidelines for solar projects — First clear signs that India is indeed hot, as a solar market.

Unique solution required for grid-tie inverters in India!

Solarcon India 2010: Timely implementation of phase 1 critical to success of JN-NSM

Need to develop indigenous manufacturing capacity in solar: Deepak Gupta

Is there a case for polysilicon manufacturing in India?

India has bright future in solar PV, other RE: Stan Meyers, SEMI

Pressing need to address solar project financing in India: D. Majumdar, IREDA

TÜV Rheinland opens South Asia’s largest PV testing lab in Bangalore

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam

Bluetooth set as short range wireless standard for smart energy! — This should be interesting, as and when it happens!

Top 15 producers of c-Si and thin film solar PV modules, and outlook 2011

There’s more to come in the new year, now that NVVN has released a list of projects under the JN-NSM. I am more keen to see how JN-NSM takes off in the new year, and am sure, so are you!

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy, joyous and prosperous 2011! 🙂

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam


Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

First of all, I would like to thank Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems, for sharing his presentation as well as the points he made during a panel discussion yesterday evening on Smart cities and smart grid: opportunities and challenges at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore.

Need for multi-disciplinary, collaborative innovation
Rajaraman called for the need to innovate, which should be multi-disciplinary, collaborative and fast paced! According to him, smart meter is not relevant for 80 percent of the Indian population as of now.

Further, India needs to look at standards for smart grid from an Indian context, rather than try and apply some smart grid solutions developed elsewhere, as those may not be relevant. There is also a need to customize the testing standards for India. All telling points, these! Smart grid is a journey, and not an end result.

India specific challenges
Challenges that are mostly India specific are — one, we don’t have the complete solution. While the ingredients exist, the standardized, modular, scalable, open solution don’t exist yet. Next, few off-the-shelf products are available and niche solutions are expensive.

Further, there are an enormous number of stakeholders. There is a need for the concerted effort of utilities, regulators, vendors, technologists, standard bodies, appliance industry, IT industry and consumer group to work together. No one group can do this quickly on their own. And, no one has all the answers!

Many of the required solutions (e.g., smart appliances) don’t yet exist in India, but the incremental cost is low. India also requires the analysis and experimentation in communication technologies and business models.

Smart grid challenges and opportunities
The points made by Venkat Rajaraman are summarized below.

1.
Smart grid is truly one area – where you need multi-disciplinary, collaborative, fast paced innovation to happen. It requires the power engineers to work with the embedded engineers, IT/networking engineers, software developers, data mining experts, Web technologists and many other specialists — to all come together and work in a collaborative way.

2.
It requires multiple stakeholders to come together – smart grid experts, technology solution providers, regulatory bodies, utilities, etc. No one can come to the party before and no one can race ahead of others. They all pretty much need to come at the same time. If not, the weak link will slow everyone down. If the utility infrastructure is not ready for time of the day pricing, demand-response etc, implementing them at the consumer end is not of much relevance.

3.
In India, the current weak link are the utilities. Almost all of the public utilities are losing money very heavily (see below).
Total commercial losses of utilities:
* 50 Discoms (erstwhile State Electricity Boards) struggle to be financially viable.
* Mainly because of subsidy, power theft and also because of poor efficiency.
* Estimated utility loss at Rs. 40,000 crore in 2010.
* Loss estimated to Increase to Rs. 68,000 crore loss by 2014-15.
* Utilities – No reward for performance and no punishment for non-performance.
* Need regulatory framework to address this.

Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) loss
* India – 32 percent (overall).
* State DISCOM losses – from 18 percent to 62 percent.
* Low billing and collection efficiency (50 percent billed and only 41 percent is collected).
* Power theft (accounts for 1.5 percent of nation’s GDP).

Smart grid economy:
* R-APDRP: To bring AT&C losses to 15 percent (17 percent savings).
* Power production in 2010: 160K MW.
* 1 percent of avoided generation – saves 1,600 MW.
* 17 percent savings (32 – 15 percent) would amount to savings of 27,000 MW. Read more…

TI on green power and MCUs


Here’s the second part of the TI roundtable, held recently.

Green power and TI

Ramprasad Ananthaswamy, director, Power Management Products, Texas Instruments India, discussed the various aspects of green power. The notion of energy and power management has become central to every country’s foreign policy, including India. The current demand is 2.1 billion units, and rising, while only 1.85 billion units are currently available.

The power IC landscape is rapidly evolving – new technologies are being developed. Even well established mega-markets are changing process technologies that are used – driven, for example, by the integration of added sensor functionality.

Ananthaswamy highlighted TI’s role in green power. TI, along with leading energy harvesting vendors, are creating a complete ecosystem allowing designers to not only envision but also create a battery-less world. Also, TI’s LED lighting portfolio and worldwide technical support network are helping LED designers achieve their goals faster.

Think MCUs

Shailesh Thakurdesai, business development manager – Microcontrollers, touched upon the role of MCUs. For instance, are you aware that an average person touches approximately 300 microcontrollers in a day? Almost every electronic device that an average person touches through the course of the day features an MCU. MCUs are everywhere — in applications like personal healthcare and fitness, security, automotive safety & infotainment and consumer electronics.

From energy harvesting to aiding cutting-edge medical applications to bringing healthcare into homes, MCUs have helped to make a difference in the way people use electronics. In the energy segment, MCUs are used in:

* Street/ commercial LED lighting, home lighting etc.
* UPS, battery chargers and inverters.
* Energy harvesting, renewable energy generation, solar micro inverters etc.
* Metering – energy, water, gas.
* MCUs help arm modern-day electronics with longer battery life, portability and functionality.

In healthcare, it can be used for applications like personal healthcare and fitness equipment, portable healthcare devices like digital thermometers, handheld ultrasound, blood pressure meters, etc. It is also used in consumer electronics like mobile phones, computers, TVs, toys, etc. Read more…

Dr. Robert Castellano on how to make solar a ‘hot’ sector again – 2

September 7, 2009 2 comments

Friends, this is the concluding part of my conversation with  Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA.
The question of adding new, additional solar capacity will always arise. Is t certain that no new additional capacity will be brought on board in 2009? Dr. Castellano said: “Actually I said 2010. Solar manufacturers are already losing money this year and the capacity utilization is 27.9 percent. Also, the days of inventory are currently 122, up from 71 days in 2008. If they continue to add new capacity, things will only worsen, exasperating the recession.”
Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president, The Information Network

Friends, this is the concluding part of my conversation with  Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of  The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA.

The question of adding new, additional solar capacity will always arise. Is it the certain that no new additional capacity will be brought on board in 2009?

Dr. Castellano noted: “Actually I said 2010. Solar manufacturers are already losing money this year and the capacity utilization is 27.9 percent. Also, the days of inventory are currently 122, up from 71 days in 2008. If they continue to add new capacity, things will only worsen, exasperating the recession.”

What lessons for India?
Turning our attention to India, which has lately been witnessing a lot of talks of building new capacity. According to Dr. Castellano, now is a good time to talk, as a plant will take at least a year to get into full production. By that time, prices should be stabilized and increase.

What then are the lessons to learn from all of this for the Indian solar PV industry?

He added: “What has to be weighed is the cost of making the solar panels in India versus buying the outside the country. It can take several years for a plant to be profitable. If the venture was established from money from India’s government through subsidies, it can lessen the impact of potential losses, while the plants ramp and selling prices move up to a level where production becomes profitable.”

I hope this valuable piece of advice is noted by the existing players or those looking to entering the solar photovoltaics segment in India.

Bring solar production cost per watt down
Dr. Castellano had mentioned about First Solar bringing production costs down to $0.93 per watt. How many of the others are capable of matching or bettering this?

He said, for that matter, Oerlikon, expects that its lines will deliver a cost of $0.70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.

How can manufacturers differentiate their solar products?
Another query has been, how should solar manufacturers differentiate their products and how can they do it cheaply?

Certainly, there are new avenues of manufacturing, such as CdTe from First Solar, CIGS from half a dozen manufacturers, multi-junction cells from companies such as Uni-Solar, and building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) from an increasing number of manufacturers, advised Dr. Castellano.

He said: “These technologies differentiate the companies’ products, but the proportion of wattage manufactured, while growing, is small compared to the majority of solar panels sold using traditional methods of production, i.e., a thin film on a glass substrate.

“Long life and low cost of ownership are of paramount importance if solar is to grow, particularly, if there is to be a large acceptance at the residential level. Manufacturing can introduce defects in solar cells that can result in low electron mobility (EM), electron traps and photo-degradation from UV light. These issues affect the efficiency and lifetime of solar cells and the importance of measuring electron mobility at the wafer and cell stage.

“The lifetime of minority carriers has been widely identified to be the key material parameter determining the conversion efficiency of pn-junctions in silicon solar cells. Defects in the crystal lattice reduce the charge carrier lifetime and thus limit the performance of the solar cells. Another major efficiency loss is due to impurities in the cell. These can be foreign atoms or molecules in the crystal lattice (including the dopant atoms), and provide sites where electrons and holes can recombine, thereby reducing the number of charged particles available to create an electrical current.

“Lehighton Electronics (Lehighton, PA) is an example of a company that has developed a variety of tools to test and measure solar wafers. One tool can measure sheet resistance and resistivity to see if there is any subsurface damage. Another system can measure minority carrier lifetimes, while a third model can find traps in solar wafers.” Read more…

Indian government, solar industry interact on MNRE’s solar PV program

September 1, 2009 2 comments

NEW DELHI, INDIA: The India semiconductor Association (ISA), along with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India and IREDA, kicked off a one-day conference on the promotion of the solar photovoltaics programs of the Government of India.
PS: The partnership between the MNRE and the ISA is very stroing. This workshop first in a series of workshops across the country. We hope you get the value add. Look forward to your feedback, so we can improve on our future programs.
Naidu: Good to be part of a new revolution taking place in India. We’ve seen the success of the IT industry and the semicon design sector. MNRE organizing an industry interaction is a step in the right direction.
Installed cap is more than 400-500MW capacity, but about 90 percent of that is exported. We have all the faetures of being a successful solar country. Germany — 4 percent of its overall capacity has been happening out of solar. Lot of emphasis also happening in the USA and Chima.
Government of India has set an ambitious target of reaching 20GW by 2020. A lot of things need to be done in the country, and by the Indian solar PV industry. We are also looking at an equal amount of participation from academia, so we can look at ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency of solar PV. ISA created the roadmap for FabCity in Hyderabad. We are also organizing a solar conference in Hyderabad. Solar is also a prominent area, where ISA has been working.
Bisht: Solar PV is going to play a big role in assuring green tech in the country. 14th Nov date set for Solar Mission Program. MNRE’s focus has been at decentralized programs, Today, we’ve 75MW of systems across the country. We’ve significant targets for SPV systems. Ministry has now tried to make new schemes. We will present those, and listen to your views. We’ll compile all that and revert to you, so we can march together.
Majumdar: The reason why we are here is clear — what exists on MNRE website — potential for renewable energy. The potential for solar is massive! When solar PV started about 15 years ago, we had small mfrs starting in garages, and have now grown to become very large.
It gives us a lot of hope that things can be done here as well. Any new tech, to begin with, expensive. Therefore, it is the prerogative of the rich to adopt it. We all hope, we’ll have volumes and technologies that can be replicated here.
We look at solar from two aspects — offgrid and ongrid. We’d like to see what kind of demand can we convert in the offgrid applications. In the subsequent session, we’ll see the steps the ministry has taken. The policy made, has been made in the best interests of the industry. We would like to get your feedback and see how best to get the market going.
Gauri Singh — Purpose is to give a loud and clear message to ind that we’d like to wrok with you as partners. A large portion of the solar mission target will come from grid connected solar power. But the offgrid opportunity is also huge.
We’ve tried to open up our policy slightly — and take the whole proces forward by taking inputs from you — and open the policy up for suggestions. One part of the thing — we already have large manufacturers who can give us modules. The other part — is our policy encouraging innovation.
Now the time is ripe where we can do only broad tech specs, etc. but leave the innovation and config of offgrid solns to the industry, and make it an enabling flavor.
We are also working to see if we can get IREDA into a refinance operation with banks. We do have scheme in place, where if anyone wants to wrok with a bank – where a lot of incentives are also available to the banks. We’d like to see incentives given to mfrs. We also need to put out a third party monitoring system.
India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had recently announced a unified solar photovoltaic (SPV) program to promote the use of decentralised SPV systems for various applications in rural/ urban areas and SPV roof top systems for diesel saving in urban areas.

Poornima Shenoy of ISA welcoming delegates. On the dias (L-R): Dr. Dr B.M.S. Bist, Ms Gauri Singh, B.V. Naidu, Debashish Majumdar and Rajiv Jain

Poornima Shenoy of ISA welcoming delegates. On the dias (L-R): Dr. B.M.S. Bist, Ms Gauri Singh, B.V. Naidu, Debashish Majumdar and Rajiv Jain

To promote this program, the MNRE organized a one-day seminar today, in New Delhi, along with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA),  and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd (IREDA),  to share the modalities for the implementation of the program with the concerned stakeholders such as manufacturers  of solar PV modules and equipment, system integrators, service providers, consultants, banks and financial institutions, and reputed NGOs. A government-industry interaction on the MNRE’s program was also intiated during the event.

Huge opportunity in off-grid applications
Ms Gauri Singh, IAS, joint secretary, MNRE said that the purpose of this interaction between the government and the industry is to give a loud and clear message to Indian solar photovoltaics industry that “we would like to work with you as partners.”

She added: “A large portion of the solar mission target will come from grid connected solar power. However, the off-grid opportunity is also huge. We have tried to open up our policy slightly — and take the whole process forward by taking inputs from you — and open up the policy for suggestions. One part of the scenario is — we already have large manufacturers who can provide us solar modules. The other part — is our policy encouraging innovation.

“Now, the time is ripe where we can do only the broad technical specifications, etc., but leave the innovation and configuration of the off-grid solutions to the industry, and make it an enabling flavor.” She also called for a need to put out a third party monitoring system.

She further added that the MNRE was also working to see whether it could get the IREDA into a refinance operation with banks.

There are schemes in place, where if anyone wants to work with a bank, a lot of incentives are available to the banks. Now, the ministry would like to see incentives being given to the manufacturers.

Industry-government interaction step in right direction
Earlier, welcoming the delegates, Poornima Shenoy, president, ISA, stressed on the very strong partnership between the MNRE and the ISA. She added that this workshop was a first in a series of such workshops that will be held across the country. She requested the delegates to add as much value as possible to this edition, adding, “We look forward to your feedback, so that we can improve on our future programs.”

B.V. Naidu, chairman, ISA said that it was good to be part of a new revolution taking place in India. He added: “We have seen the success of the Indian IT industry and the Indian semiconductor design sector. That the MNRE is organizing an industry interaction on solar photovoltaics is a step in the right direction.” Naidu noted that India has all the features required for becoming a successful solar country.

Incidentally, the current installed capacity of solar PV  is said to be over 400-500MW, but about 90 percent of that capacity is exported. As a case, in Germany, 4 percent of the overall power generation capacity has been generated out of solar. A lot of emphasis on solar PV also been happening in the USA and Chima.

Naidu added: “The Government of India has set an ambitious target of reaching 20GW by 2020. A lot of things need to be done in the country, and by the Indian solar PV industry. We are also looking at an equal amount of participation from the academia, so that we can look at ways of reducing costs and improving the efficiency of solar PV.

The ISA has already created the roadmap for the FabCity in Hyderabad. It is also organizing a solar conference in Hyderabad this November.

Solar to assure green technology in India
Dr B.M.S. Bist, Advisor, MNRE, said that solar PV is going to play a big role in assuring green technology in the country. A date of Nov. 14 has been set for Solar Mission Program, as already mentioned.

The MNRE’s focus has been at decentralized programs. Today, there are said to be 75MW of systems across the country. Dr. Bist added that significant targets have been set for the SPV systems. The ministry has now tried to make new schemes. These will be presented to the delegates and their views welcomed. Those views will be compiled and the ministry will revert to the industry, so both of them can march together.

A view of the government-industry interaction. (L-R): D. Majumdar, Dr. Dr B.M.S. Bist, Dr. A. Raza, BV Rao and AK Varshney

A view of the government-industry interaction. (L-R): D. Majumdar, Dr. B.M.S. Bist, Dr. A. Raza, B.V. Rao and AK Varshney.

Massive potential for solar PV in India
Addressing the delegates, Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director, IREDA, said the reason for the gathering today was very clear — what exists on the MNRE website is potential for renewable energy. However, it does not really highlight the  potential for solar PV, which is massive!

He added: “When solar PV started about 15 years ago in India, we had small manufacturers starting in garages, etc., and who have now grown to become very large companies. It gives us a lot of hope that things can be done very well here as well. Any new technology, to begin with, is expensive. Therefore, it is the prerogative of the rich to adopt it. We all hope that we will have the volumes and the technologies that can be replicated in India.

“We look at solar from two aspects — off-grid and on-grid. We would like to see what kind of demand can we convert in the off-grid applications. In the subsequent session, we will see the steps that the ministry has taken. The policy has been made keeping the best interests of the industry. We would like to get your feedback and see how best to get the market going.”

This is indeed, an honest attempt on part of the MNRE to work closely with the industry. Hopefully, everything will go well, following this interaction as it will sow the right seeds toward reaping a full harvest — in shape of achieving the very ambitious target of the government of India’s national solar mission plan!

There were presentations on the following topics as well:

* Details of the solar PV off-grid program (rooftop systems) — Dr. AK Varshney, MNRE
* Details of the solar PV off-grid program (other applications) — Dr. A. Raza, MNRE
* Financing of IREDA schemes for solar — BV Rao, IREDA

These presentations were followed by a marathon discussion between the MNRE and IREDA officials on behalf of the government of India and the members of the Indian solar photovoltaics industry.

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