May 2010 | Vibha Rao
Tata BP Solar is helping drive a solar-powered revolution that is complementing the Indian power sector by providing a low-carbon alternative for an energy-starved India
With the right policy push, the mission can drive a 100-fold growth from the current installed solar power base of less than 200 MW, with new solar plants adding the much-needed megawatts to the national grid. “The actual take-off in grid-connected solar power plants will happen after the policy guidelines are finalised and announced. We are ready to serve the Indian market in all seriousness,” says Mr Subramanya.
Diesel displacement projects are another emerging area for Tata BP Solar. The Indian government is promoting the use of solar energy in place of diesel because about 70 per cent of the fuel is imported. About 15-20 per cent of India’s diesel requirements is used for captive power generation applications; this is where Tata BP Solar works with banks, railways, telecom companies, etc to provide solar solutions that replace diesel use.
Yet another strong success area for Tata BP Solar is building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems that are used to create ‘green’ buildings. The company uses an innovative and specially developed technology to sandwich solar cells into glass panels. Integration of these solar panels in buildings not only generates solar energy, it also improves the aesthetics and acoustics of the building. Mr Subramanya says, “We have been in BIPV systems all along, but this area is acquiring more importance and focus because of the government’s enabling policies and support.”
Green buildings are just one way of utilising the latent potential of solar energy (more energy hits the earth from the sun in one hour than the world uses in a year). Tata BP Solar’s on-to-grid strategy aims to harness this infinite solar energy more effectively to make it the preferred source of energy for India. An energy revolution indeed seems to be in the making, with the national solar mission promising to bring solar energy from the fringes towards the centre of India’s energy planning, a move that will not only help India solve part of its crippling energy deficit but also mark a shift towards low carbon energy. As Mr Subramanya puts it, “Given India’s huge power shortage and the abundance of solar radiation here, this is an excellent move. Now it’s only a question of time before solar energy finds its rightful place in the energy mix of the country.”
Focus on rural electrification
These remote villages had not been touched by conventional grid power due to lack of technical and economic viability. Solar power was an ideal solution that provided a decentralised source of power generation at the village level and served the basic lighting needs of the villagers. The Tata BP Solar team has been working in close collaboration with the state government and the Chhattisgarh State Renewable Development Agency (CREDA), since 2003-04 to set up village level solar power plants.
The company has also implemented rural electrification in villages in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Assam and Haryana. In UP and Haryana, Tata BP Solar sells solar home lighting systems directly to rural customers without any government support or financial subsidies.
For those who do need support, the company has tied up with a few leading regional rural banks such as Aryavart Gramin Bank of Lucknow, Prathama Bank of Moradabad, Gomti Kashi Bank of Allahabad, Gurgaon Grameen Bank, etc to facilitate the provision of bank loans to the villagers. In the last three years, Tata BP Solar has sold nearly 80,000 solar home lighting systems in UP alone.