New gen rooftops

R Balaji | Updated on: Apr 16, 2011

A base load of 2 kW costing about Rs 5-6 lakh could power the essential lighting and fans in a bungalow-size home.

A year after the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy came out with a policy to support small wind and solar hybrid systems for decentralised generation of power, manufacturers are seeing a steady growth in demand.

Apart from the traditional use in irrigation and in remote areas out of reach of grid connectivity, hybrid systems that contain a wind energy generator and a solar photovoltaic panel linked to inverters to supply power, are finding a market in urban centres. Developers of high-end homes see a utility in providing hybrid systems as a back-up power option. Particularly, projects pegged on the green platform are a ready market, say manufacturers.

Heartening response

While still a niche market, the pace of growth is heartening and is bound to increase in the face of power shortage and increasing costs of conventional fuels. A base load of 2 kW costing about Rs 5-6 lakh would be needed to power the essential lighting and fans in a bungalow-sized home, say manufacturers.

In the current year, the MNRE is confident of receiving applications totalling over 1,000 kW of small wind energy and hybrid systems. That would almost equal the capacity set up in the last two decades. The renewed policy announced last April addressed technology, quality control and fiscal support in the form of a total subsidy of about Rs 5 crore a year for 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Mr Uday Kshirsagar, Managing Director, Spitzen Energy Solutions, a Pune-based manufacturer of small wind turbines and hybrid systems, a kW of hybrid system with 60 per cent power from wind and 40 per cent from solar generation costs Rs 2.5-2.7 lakh. While the initial costs may seem high, it is the life cycle cost of renewable energy that is attractive with virtually little maintenance costs and running costs.

Compare that to a kW capacity inverter which costs about Rs 1 lakh or a generator that costs about Rs 30,000 to 60,000 and comes with the recurring fuel cost. For now high-end developers and niche projects that target green rating while assuring 100 per cent power back-up are keen on these systems.

Hybrid systems

For instance, Amanora Park Town, a project in Pune, is offering hybrid systems in some its waterfront villa units. Hybrid units are also being tried in Magarpatta city and two large projects located close to the back waters are offering these hybrid systems in their bungalow projects.

A handful of developers in Tamil Nadu including a couple of Chennai-based builders have evinced interest in these systems, he said.

Typically, units of about 10 kWh are ideal for residential, commercial and small industrial and irrigation use while larger units find application in institutions and for lighting in villages. These are modular units that can be scaled up as needed.

According to Mr Jayant Keni, Chairman and Managing Director, JK Group of Companies, based in Mumbai, it has tied up with Justin Philips of Canada to produce small wind turbines.

It is targeting the high rise buildings and urban application in hybrid systems. Small wind turbines are an option. The company is looking at manufacturing small wind turbines of about 6 kwh.

Policy support

According to officials, the policy support for small wind and solar hybrid systems has sparked a demand for these products. Last year projects with a cumulative capacity of 700 kW where sanctioned.

In the current year the Ministry has on hand applications seeking support for projects totalling about 400 kW of generation capacity and expects applications to exceed 1000 kW in the current year. In the last 20 years over 1200 kW have been established with 60 per cent in Maharashtra.

A key feature of the policy is the quality certification and assurance that manufacturers have to provide. The hybrid systems have to be certified by the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, the autonomous R&D institution under the MNRE, which is now testing eight models.

The Pune-based World Institute of Sustainable Energy has estimated a potential of about 85,000-100,000 MW of generation capacity using small wind generation and hybrid systems. Experts felt that introduction of net metering facilities will help to encourage application of hybrid systems and other small decentralised power generation options.

As of now India allows only units of more than 100 kW to be linked to the grid. But in Europe even units of 1 kW are linked to the grid and consumers get the benefit of supplying power to grid and bringing down power costs.

According to hybrid systems manufacturers, the one million medium-sized commercial buildings, represents a ready market for units ranging from 10-100 kW as back-up.

Also public facilities and the IT sector which are dependent on UPS units powered by diesel generators can exploit these hybrid systems. Application of wind-solar hybrid systems is “only limited by our imagination,” says Mr Kshirsagar.

Published on April 16, 2011
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