How solar power is turning rural India bright and shining

As the Indian economy enjoys a sustained positive momentum, rural India continues to be the heart of the country, accounting for 67 per cent of the total population and 37 per cent of its GDP.

Agriculture is the primary occupation of rural households and mainstay of their socio-economic structure. While the overall Indian economy is expected to grow in excess of 7 per cent – the fastest amongst large global economies – rural India still lags behind substantially.

The primary hindrance to growth in rural productivity and subsequent economic growth, is the lack of basic infrastructure such as electricity, clean water and sanitation.

Huge opportunity

Nearly 300 million people in rural India lack access to grid-connected power, promoting use of archaic sources of energy such as kerosene, diesel, wood-fired chulhas, etc, which not only results in huge government subsidies, but also substantial health and environmental hazards.

Solar power offers an opportunity to bridge this massive infrastructure gap and improve the social, economic, environment and health indicators of 30 per cent of India’s population.

While solar power has been around for a while, historically high costs have necessitated it to be driven by philanthropic capital or government subsidy, thus limiting its scope.

However with a drop in capital cost by nearly 70 per cent over the last four years, solar energy has now become commercially mainstream, thus attracting private capital and entrepreneurs.

This truly makes solar power the much awaited panacea for the millions living in darkness.

Further, the Centre, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has strongly supported solar power.

As part of the government’s vision of ‘Electricity for all by 2019’, the Centre has placed special emphasis on incentivising distributed solar power, having already sanctioned 4,604 distributed solar project in rural area to power 4,745 villages/hamlets.

Lighting up rural India

The decentralised and modular nature of solar power makes it easy to deploy for multiple rural applications, impacting key facets of rural population such as productivity, safety, health benefits, access to clean water, heating solution and livelihood.

Solar lighting, for example, not only provides a high quality solution to improve rural productivity, but also substantially reduces health hazards by enabling replacement of kerosene lamps. Even 4-5 hours of additional lighting can improve productivity and income of rural household by nearly 30 per cent.

Nearly 3.5 million solar lighting solutions have been installed till date, making it a $200-million market in FY 15.

While historically these systems were funded by government-backed programs, of late most products are sold on a commercial basis, backed by financing support from MFIs/cooperative banks.

Private players like Jain Irrigation, Tata Solar, Greenlight Planet, etc, now dominate the market. Recent venture capital funding of $10 million in Greenlight Planet by Fidelity Growth Partners truly underlines the economic viability of this model.

Solar micro and mini grid are logical extensions of standalone solar lighting solutions as they have the capability to provide incremental benefits to households like powering fans, mobile charging, community television, as well as facilitating Internet access etc.

Simpa Networks is an excellent example of a private enterprise providing commercially viable micro grid solution to the poorest of poor districts – it has provided pay per use solutions to eight districts in UP, thus lighting nearly 15,000 homes.

Simpa Network is backed by commercial and developmental institutions like ADB, OPIC, GDF Suez, etc, and has funding in place to provide solutions to additional 75,000 users.

A unique variant of this model is a mini grid solution by private players like OMC power, which use a solar telecom tower as the primary base load and supply excess power to rural households on a pay per use basis.

Smarter farming

Another important application is solar powered agri pumps, which have the potential to substantially improve productivity of Indian farmers. Solar agri pumps are an economic and environmentally-friendly alternative to nearly 26 million agri pumps installed in India, of which 10 million are diesel-fired.

Replacement of 1 million diesel pumps could, over its life, improve agricultural output by ₹30,000 crore, mitigate usage of diesel by 9.4 billion litres — translating into a reduction of diesel subsidy by ₹84,000 million and CO2 abatement of 25.3 million tonnes.

While solar pumps cost nearly 10 times more upfront than the diesel variants, they have attractive payback period of 4 years vis-a-vis diesel pumps. Central and State governments have introduced multiple favourable schemes to promote usage of solar pumps, by providing subsidy for the upfront costs.

Possible applications

Clean water remains a big challenge in rural India, since water treatment requires power.

Solar energy is finding important applications in this field. For example, Nagaland recently installed a solar powered water treatment plant in Tsiesma, a village near Kohima, which works on an advanced membrane filtration system producing pure drinking water.

Other important applications of solar power include access to the Internet and television, which can enhance — rural employment, solar-powered basic healthcare centres, solar-powered tablets like those developed by edZilla (which is transforming the scene of education in rural Karnataka), and solar telecom towers, which have the potential to provide economic and hassle-free solutions to nearly 150,000 telecom towers plagued by unreliable energy supply.

Last but not the least, solar energy also provides a multiplier effect by providing employment and entrepreneurial avenues to rural youth. Given the simple and modular nature of solar systems, large number of semi skilled labourers in rural India can be employed for installation and after sales services of these systems.

It is evident that adoption of solar power as an alternative source of energy could alter the socio-economic fabric of rural India, for the better.

Centre’s role

The Centre, as always, has a key role to play in expediting this process. It must develop new and affordable sources of solar energy, besides educating the rural masses about the benefits of switching to solar.

However, the private sector must step in and complement the State’s initiatives and the governments must create a climate conductive for private capital inflow to this sector.

The heightened sensitivity about solar energy is heartening to see and if this pace is maintained, rural India is indeed headed for ‘sunny days’.


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Will next-gen solar cells help India save $900 million?

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia has claimed that the next generation of its research on solar cell technology could help the Centre save more than $900 million (over ₹6,000 crore).

Claiming that the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology developed by the university could be a game changer in India’s renewable energy ambitions, Laurie Pearcey, Executive Director (International) of UNSW, said the technology demonstrates that solar could be a major part of India’s energy mix.

“The nation will be able to have both – low carbon and low cost – energy future. India needs to find the right balance between environmental outcomes and economic efficiencies, and we know this is possible,” he said.

How it differs

PERC technology differs from other commercial cells in the way that it reduces the contact between silicon and aluminium using insulation, which helps minimise energy losses.

The technology is forecast to have a global market share of 45 per cent by 2024.

According to a release, the technology will be showcased during a round table discussion in Sydney on October 27 to India’s Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal, and ahead of the UNSW’s President and Vice-Chancellor’s visit to India next month.

University sources are considering the visit to explore knowledge exchange partnerships with a range of Indian industry, government and university stakeholders.

‘Huge saving’

UNSW Scientia Professor Stuart Wenham said: “The jump in efficiency could result in massive savings for India’s renewables agenda. With our technology, the cost of producing 1 GW of solar power is reduced by $6,000.

“For India to achieve its goal of 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022, it needs to build around 15 GW of solar power every year. Our technology could bring annual savings of up to $900 million (around ₹6,000 crore)”.

“Hydrogenated PERC technology is another landmark step in bringing cost-effective and highly efficient solar power to the world,” he added.

“This technology removes a very important roadblock allowing manufacturers to produce low-cost high efficiency solar cells. What this means is that efficiency gains from new cells will be passed on to consumers and investors like the Indian government, resulting in huge savings for large plants and reducing the payback time on investment,” Wenham stated.


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India’s Rooftop Solar Power Capacity Crosses 1 Gigawatt Mark: Report

India’s rooftop solar energy capacity has crossed 1 gigawatt (GW) mark this year with 513 MW generation capacity added over the past 12 months, says Bridge to India report.

“As per the report, titled ‘India Solar Rooftop Map’, India’s rooftop solar capacity has crossed 1 GW mark this year,” said consultancy services provider Bridge to India.

India has added 513 MW of rooftop solar capacity over the past 12 months, growing at 113 per cent over previous 12 months, reaching total installed capacity of 1,020 MW, according to the report released today at Intersolar Mumbai.

Last year’s capacity addition is more than the addition of all previous years put together. 22 per cent of capacity added through PPA (power purchase agreements) based projects.

CleanMax, Amplus Solar, Cleantech Solar, Azure Power, Rays Expert and Hero Future Energies are some of the leading companies offering PPAs.

The rooftop solar market growth is directly linked to improving economics of rooftop solar. Most commercial and industrial consumers can reduce their power bills by 20-30 per cent with rooftop solar power.

It said this growth is expected to continue in the years to come and the market is expected to reach a total capacity of 12.7 GW by 2021.

The report also highlights that commercial and industrial consumers dominate the market with 63 per cent of installed capacity. Grid parity for these consumers has now been achieved in 17 out of the 19 largest states in India.
In states such as Maharashtra and Haryana, tariff differential between grid power and rooftop solar power can be as high as 30 per cent, it said.

This has been much steeper than what most analysts had earlier predicted and has helped in achieving the existing growth rate, it added.

Bridge to India MD Vinay Rustagi said, “Rooftop solar has been a side-story in the Indian solar sector so far but that is beginning to change now. The sector is growing rapidly and beginning to realise its potential, thanks largely to increasing cost competitiveness of rooftop solar power vs grid power.”

Mr Rustagi further said,”We expect rooftop solar to outpace growth in the utility solar market in the coming years. The government has announced attractive policies such as net metering, subsidies for select customers and cheaper debt financing for the sector although there is huge scope for improvement on every front.”

There is also substantial rooftop capacity being created in the government sector itself, he added.

Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat are leading in terms of total installed capacity. The government rooftop solar segment has grown to over 10 per cent in total installed capacity.




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India’s solar power set to outshine coal

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.

India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90 per cent of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70 per cent.

The 2016 BP Energy Outlook report assumes that India will depend increasingly on imports for its energy. Domestic production can be increased, but the increase will be overtaken by growing demand. BP says that by 2035 gas imports to India will rise by 573 per cent, oil imports by 169 per cent and coal by 85 per cent.

Renewable thinking

But that assumes that renewables will not take off in India. Others think differently. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.

Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

One of the pioneering solar manufacturers, Tata Power Solar, estimates that the potential for solar in India lies at about 130 gigawatts by 2025 (one GW is enough to power between 750,000 and a million typical US homes).

“This would generate more than 675,000 jobs in the Indian solar industry,” says Tata Power Solar’s former CEO, Ajay Goel, now president of solar and chief of new businesses at New Delhi-based ReNew Power . “Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.”

Solar Benefits

After years of standstill on the subcontinent, India seems to be discovering the benefits of solar energy. So the government has recently updated its National Solar Mission target: now it wants to achieve 175GW of renewable power, which includes 100GW of solar power by 2022.

To meet these goals, India will need to increase the pace of its renewable energy capacity addition sevenfold, from an average 3GW per year to at least 20GW per year. Since 2007, the country has averaged only 15GW of new power capacity each year from all technologies.

Bloomberg believes that these targets are difficult to achieve in the given timeframe and will require a serious overhaul of the power infrastructure, as well as new incentives to drive investment.

The International Energy Authority (IEA) agrees. In a special report on India, the agency says that due to population growth the country will need to provide an extra 600 million people with electricity by 2040.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means there is a strong reliance on solar and wind power. The IEA says India has high potential and equally high ambition in these areas to deliver on the pledge to build up a 40 per cent share of non-fossil-fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

It believes that 340GW of new wind and solar projects, as well as manufacturing and installation capabilities, can be created by 2040 with strong policy support and declining costs.

According to this scenario, the IEA says, the share of coal in the power generation mix falls from 75 per cent to less than 60 per cent, but coal-fired power still meets half of the increase in power generation.

But both the IEA and Bloomberg warn that inadequate transmission infrastructure, open access issues, the poor financial health of distribution companies and a difficult law-making process within the power sector will be the major issues blocking a flow of investment and the proper growth of renewable energy.

So it remains to be seen whether India will put its ambitious plans into practice. The solar potential is obviously there, and at a competitive price. Now people have to start harvesting energy from the sun.



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This Indian scientist grows solar panels on trees

A solar tree that takes up only four square feet of space and produces about 5KW of power, enough to power five households

You’ve probably read the story of Cochin International Airport in Kerala, India, the world’s first airport fully powered by solar panels. Its 12 MW solar power plant — comprising 46,150 panels laid across 45 acres of land near cargo complex — produces 50,000-60,000 units of electricity per day, used by the airport across all its operational functions.

While heading for the airport the other day, I had a glimpse of the large number of solar panels. I wondered: if this can be replicated in other airports, India could save a lot on energy costs and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, thereby helping save the ecosystem.

No doubt, solar energy is the way forward, and many innovations are happening that contribute to a better environment. The same also goes for innovations that make basic needs more accessible even for the last-mile user. Take for instance Facebook’s successful test of its high-altitude, long-endurance solar airplane that aims to give access to affordable Internet to everyone, including those living in hard-to-reach locations.

Developing economies, particularly countries like India, will greatly benefit from alternative energy sources, wherein people can go off-grid or even become net producers of power, contributing back to the grid. As part of this goal, governments provide subsidies to set up solar panels and wind turbines on house premises and farm lands.

However, there is still reluctance to embrace solar energy, as it requires a costly initial investment and regular maintenance, thus making it unfeasible for people living in villages and remote areas. Plus, it requires a large land area to build solar panels for industrial and agricultural purposes. In addition, urban dwellers don’t want to come out of their comfort zones and cease reliance on the grid.

Sibnath Maity, an Indian scientist has come up with a unique system that will address the chief concern associated with solar energy: the need for land. He has designed a ‘solar power tree’ that takes up only four square feet of land space, and that it can produce about 3 KW of power — enough to power five households. It resembles a tree with branches at different tiers and could be squeezed into rooftops and highways.


View photos


With his invention, Maity, who is Chief Scientist at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), aims to give wings to the dream of millions of villagers who have been deprived of electricity for long.

“More than 80 per cent of Indians live in villages, most of which still don’t have access to electricity,” Maity told e27. “It is not feasible for the government to get electricity into villages as it is costly.”

“Solar energy is the need of the hour; however, people are reluctant to set up solar panels as it is expensive, too. Our life-changing solar tree is aimed at such villages,” he added.

Maity started working on the solar tree back in 2006, but he did not get much appreciation for his hard work until the central government noticed his invention and a Union Minister inaugurated one of his solar trees. “Eventually, my hard work paid off when Union Minister Dr. Harshvardhan inaugurated one of the solar trees built in Delhi,” he said.

For states like Bihar and Bengal, where electricity has yet to reach to the hinterlands, the solar tree is a godsend. Bizarre it may seem, even today in India there are villagers who walk kilometres to adjacent villages fortunate enough to have electricity, just to recharge their mobile phones. And the government’s ambitious dream of ‘electricity for all’ is nowhere close to reality.

“This is going to benefit states like Bengal, Bihar and Odisha,” said Maity. “I got a request from a farmer in Berhampur in Odisha to set up a solar tree, capable of producing 5KW of power for him to run a motor pump in his farm. We hope to see more such requests come in, moving forward.”

Maity admits that at INR 5 lakh (US$ 7,500), a solar tree capable of producing 5KW power is costly, but with the huge government subsidy it can be made affordable. “The cost depends on the requirement. If you need just a 3KW solar tree, it costs INR 3 lakh (US$ 4,500). Some state governments provide up to 30 per cent subsidy for alternative energy setups, while some others 80 per cent. On the top of it, central government also provides some grants. So it is not going to burn a big hole in people’s pocket.”

As of today, Maity has erected six solar trees in different villages in India. He is receiving queries from places like Lakshadeep and Andaman Nicobar (two Indian archipelagos), where land availability is a huge issue.

solar cycle

“Unlike other solar panels, we promise 100 per cent efficiency. Plus, it does not need regular maintenance and has a long life. We want to see the entire India illuminated in the near future,” concluded Maity, who had previously designed a portable solar pump and a three-wheeler solar vehicle.


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India’s solar sector outlook positive: Report

India’s solar sector outlook is positive in view of a strong government support for the renewable energy sector to achieve the target of 40GW of installed rooftop solar power by 2022 along with high investor interest, says a report.

“We maintain our view that inefficiencies in the power grid infrastructure, power supply shortages and the scalability of decentralised technology pave the way for deployment in India,” BMI Research said in a statement.

The outlook for solar power in India is positive, given the strong government support for the sector, high investor interest in the market and the strengthening project pipeline of projects, it said.

“26GW of solar capacity in the pipeline we expect solar capacity to surge to nearly 53 GW by 2025. This, however, is below government targets, which envisage solar capacity reaching 100GW by 2022 -a target we believe too ambitious, due to the numerous bottlenecks facing the country’s renewables expansion, it said.

“We note that this growth in solar capacity is not just confined to utility-scale capacity, asIndia holds vast potential for the expansion of decentralised energy solutions (DES), notably in the form of off-grid and residential solar,” it said.

“Inefficiencies in the power grid infrastructure, power supply shortages and the scalability of decentralised technology pave the way for deployment in India – and in fact, the wider Asia region where we have highlighted the growing penetration of DES as a key theme,” it added.

Within the government’s solar roadmap there is a capacity target for rooftop solar-of 40GW by 2022.

“We believe the fulfilment of this target will be determined by policy implementation at the state-level, given that governance in the power sector remains very much state-led,” it said.

“As such, we view the announcement of Madhya Pradesh’s decentralised renewable energy support scheme in September as a positive step towards increasing the deployment of rooftop solar in India at the national level.

The scheme, which is called ‘Smile on Every Roof’, aims to install 2.2GW of rooftop

solar by 2022 by introducing a net-metering system, which enables consumers to sell excess power generated from household renewable energy systems,” it said.




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solar panel

Enthusiasm For Solar Micro-Grids In Developing World Gets A Sobering Reality Check In India

Last week, India helped the world get one step closer to an international climate pact when it ratified the Paris Climate Accord. Much of India’s strategy to reduce fossil fuels relies on a transition to renewable energy, namely solar. In fact, with solar prices worldwide plummeting, many countries are placing bets on solar.

Most analysis conducted to date suggests that among various competing solar technologies the economics are best for utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) projects. But grid scale PV can only serve households actually connected to the grid. Millions of people in developing and emerging economies live without electricity, either because the grid has not reached them or because they remain too poor to pay.

Rooftop solar and solar micro-grids seem appealing as a clean solution to a crippling energy access problem that condemns these countries to low growth. Micro-grids—where a handful of homes are centrally wired to a field of solar panels—are becoming especially popular because, unlike rooftop solar, the high upfront installation costs can be spread throughout a village, making them cheaper. Often fully or partially funded by non-profits and social venture capital, solar micro-grids are popping up in villages from Africa to Bangladesh, where households are able to flick on a switch for light for the first time.

So are solar micro-grids a sustainable solution to lighting up the developing and emerging world? Unfortunately, a recent study I conducted with my colleagues in the state of Bihar, one of the poorest regions in India, suggests they may have a tough time. A mix of inefficient policy, conflicting incentives and unreliable operations can ultimately lead to a product that consumers do not want.

The first challenge is low take-up. In our study, only 20% of potential micro-grid customers signed up, even with existing capital subsidies augmented with subsidies that cut monthly usage fees in half. There are various reasons this may have happened. One reason involved the low-power nature of the micro-grid. While we might think households would (and should) be willing to pay for small amounts of electricity to be able to switch on a light at night, this was not the case. Households wanted enough electricity to power a fan or even a television. If they couldn’t get that, they were willing to do without. A separate study found a similar phenomenon in Kenya and Tanzania. As with any other product, getting people to pay requires giving them what they want – even if this means serving fewer people with the same number of solar panels.

Even where micro-grids have takers, solar is not the only game in town. In our study, solar micro-grids faced competition from generators burning a mix of diesel and kerosene. This source of electricity can be more flexible than solar, doesn’t require storage and is often cheaper. In India, a specific problem occurred because of a government subsidy program. The government provides an allotment of highly-subsidized

kerosene to households meant for lamps. But not satisfied with the inferior lamps, households are trading in their kerosene to the operators of small generator plants. The kerosene is used to power the plants, and in return the households receive cheaper electricity. So, this policy essentially subsidizes a dirty fuel burned in a high-pollution small generator, while simultaneously making it very hard for solar micro-grids to compete.



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Solar power to make Noida Metro India’s greenest

The 29.7km Noida Metro corridor will be India’s greenest when it becomes operational a little over a year from now with a capacity to generate enough solar power to run not only all 21 stations but also its offices and train depot.

The practices being followed are similar to those Delhi Metro is employing in Phase-3 and some of its existing stations, but Noida Metro will stand out as India’s most environment-friendly Metro project because the entire corridor will homogenously use solar power, right from its head office to parking lots and footbridges.

Noida Metro has set a target of generating 12MW of solar power daily, its managing director Santosh Yadav said on Tuesday. For that yield, it is installing solar panels on the rooftops of all stations, footbridges, its main office building, the depot and parking lot boundary walls. “We will also apply for a diamond rating for our buildings by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC),” Yadav said. “Metro’s total power consumption can be reduced further with better engineering practices, sleek design, recycle and reuse.” Yadav said solar power will run lights, fans, elevators, escalators and air-conditioning systems at its stations and offices. The conventional power connection will be used as a supplementary source if required or as backup if there is a glitch, officials said.

Metro officials estimate the corridor’s total power consumption, excluding the electricity required to run the trains and some other crucial operational facilities, will be less than the 12 MW solar power the corridor collectively generates. If there is a surplus, Metro will route it to the conventional power grid and claim a rebate on its power usage, cutting operational costs.

“Each of the stations will be powered by its own green energy. Rooftops of stations will have solar panels and the buildings will fitted with LED bulbs. The two sub-stations that will supply power for trains running on the corridor will also support solar panels,” Yadav said.

 The corridor, which is being built by DMRC, is also recycling construction waste. “Wasted concrete is being used to make kerbstones and tiles, which will be used at stations. We are also using wasted iron for grilles and railings of stations,” Yadav said. “We are using fly ash in construction, preserving top soil. The water used in our train depot shall be 100% recycled. It will be a zero-discharge facility,” he added.
Noida Metro Railway Corporation’s headquarters in Sector 29 will be the first building in the NCR city to fully generate its own solar power. “We will generate about 30 kW electricity for the building,” Yadav said. The project’s environmental initiatives have been taken up under the terms of reference issued by the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), which it approached after a direction from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to obtain environmental clearance.
Under those guidelines, Noida Metro must also build sound barriers along the entire line, 576 rainwater harvesting pits and plant nearly 18,000 trees to compensate for the loss of greenery because of construction.
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Indian researcher produces stable solar cells

In a first, a researcher from Pune’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) has successfully produced a stable, high-efficiency, all-inorganic perovskite nanocrystal solar cells. The new material has 10.77% efficiency to convert sunlight to electricity.

The results were published on October 7 in the journal Science.

Traditional research has been around a hybrid organic-inorganic halide perovskite material.

Though the hybrid material has high efficiency of over 22%, the organic component in it is volatile and becomes completely unstable under ambient conditions within a short span of time. This renders the material unsuitable for commercial photovoltaic applications.

Problems in bulk form

So Abhishek Swarnkar, a research scholar from the Department of Chemistry at IISER and lead author of the paper, and others from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado, U.S., replaced methyl ammonium, the organic component, with cesium to produce the material of cesium lead iodide.

“Though the completely inorganic material is stable, there are problems. In bulk form [bigger size crystal], the cesium lead iodide perovskite absorbs sunlight light only up to about 400 nm. So it does not have much application as a photovoltaic material,” says Mr. Swarnkar.

One way of making the bulk material capable of absorbing the entire range of visible sunlight (400-700 nm) is to heat it to 300 degree C so that is attains a desirable crystal structure (cubic phase). But when the material cools down to room temperature, where photovoltaics normally operate, it once again regains its undesired crystal structure (orthorhombic) and loses the ability to absorb sunlight beyond 400 nm.

“We found that by reducing the size of the crystals to nanometre range, the material at ambient temperature is able to absorb visible sunlight till 700 nm. This is because the material retains the desirable crystal structure (cubic phase) even at room temperature,” he says. The nanocrystals were found to be stable from —196 degree C to about 200 degree C.

“By reducing the size of material to nanometer range, the surface to volume ratio increases tremendously. As a result, high surface energy comes into play and makes the high-temperature cubic phase crystal structure stable even at room temperature,” he says.

The researchers assembled the nanocrystals as a thin film. The thin film was used for making both solar cells and red LEDs. Solar cells made using the nanocrystal thin film has 10.77 per cent efficiency to convert sunlight to electricity and produce a high voltage of 1.23 volts.

‘More energy required’

“Generally, more electrical energy is required to get low energy emission in LEDs. But less electrical energy [voltage] was sufficient to produce red light in LEDs made using our method,” Mr. Swarnkar says.


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Prices of solar energy down by 40%: Piyush Goyal

Power minister Piyush Goyal said that by consistent efforts made by the government the prices of solar energy have come down by 40% in just 18 months.


Power minister Piyush Goyal said that by consistent efforts made by the government the prices of solar energy have come down by 40% in just 18 months.

He was speaking at the distinguished gathering of Industry stalwarts from Energy sector at a media event, ‘Energy Conclave, 2016 – Securing India’s Green Future’, organized here.

The Minister noted that India has its own developmental imperatives in the near future, hence it cannot shun the use of fossil fuels completely from its energy basket. It is important to strike a balance between the conventional & renewable sources of energy and rapid societal development & environmental concerns, he added.

Goyal expressed happiness to see renewable energy taking centre stage in discussions on power sector recently. He noted that it is of prime importance to achieve the goal of ‘One Nation, One Grid, One Price’ at the earliest and create a robust transmission grid network where affordable power is seamlessly available to the common man throughout the Nation, at one price.

The minister pointed out that the Government, after taking charge, has made the solar power target five times to 100 GW by 2022. Moreover, concentrating on other sources of renewable energy, this year has been dedicated to hydro and wind energy and talks with international gas suppliers are on, he added.



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