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What to do to bring out the best of an industry association? Few questions and answers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 0 comments

Recently, an association was formed in Gujarat, the pioneering state of solar energy in India aptly named, Solar Energy Association. The solar projects demands quick addressing multiple issues such as land acquisition, moving of utilities to the site, establishing grid network, PPA clauses, etc. The newly formed association was launched by Dr J.J. Irani, director, Tata Sons which is one of the front-leaders in solar energy space in India. There are currently 15 members and the association expected it to raise to 60 by end of the year. A good start in every respect.

The fact remains, how to make it a success? In past, we have witnessed that many associations were formed in varied industries e.g. semiconductors, heavy machinery, electricals, etc. Are they successful? Usually, the gap in what they expected in form of association objectives and what they got from government during budgets and regular policy changes is wide enough. The association would require a robust plan on what to achieve at what stage of industry development phase. Solar industry is very much in the nascent stage with only 3 MW implemented till-date of the expected 32 MW grid-connected solar power by end of the year.

Please find below few pointers which I think if implemented can extract more of the association goals. Some are radical, some can be implemented right away.
·      Have 2 chairmen:
·        One government official having a position in renewable cell
·        One CEO of the top 5 companies competing in the sphere
·       This would help to bring out upfront the consensus among the government and players on which policies can be implemented.
Research Cell
·      The government often complains that the demands of the association are not justified.
·      To mitigate this, have a dedicated research cell which develops best practices in each sphere e.g. tariffs, land acquisition regulation, project implementation.
·      Best practice example: after giving substantial feed-in-tariffs to retail customers, Germany was able to introduce a subsidy cut. In the process, it became a leader in off-grid PV installations.

I am brainstorming for few more suggestions. Do you have something on your mind? Please share to make such associations a success!

Note: I am not related in any way to the Solar Energy Association. Please consider the above opinions as purely personal.
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Sunlight used to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels: Could this be the next big thing?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 0 comments

The change in renewable space is fast paced and requires one path-breaking technology to prove that it can fuel the world's demand for energy. The issue with current solar energy technologies is that of storage. Researchers from the United States and Switzerland have tried to answer this. They are working on a "solar reactor" which can concentrate the solar energy on a cylinder lined with cerium oxide (ceria).

The technology:
This process breaks down the water into Hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Hydrogen produced could be used to fuel hydrogen fuel cells in cars, for example, while a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be used to create "syngas" for fuel. According to the people involved on this project, methane can be produced by using the same machine.

The downsides:
Very low efficiency: Around 0.7% to 0.8% of the total solar energy taken in the machine. However, this can be improved upto 19% with better insulation and smaller apertures.

Requirement to be successful:
The usual suspects – low-carbon policy, economies of scale, government subsidies, etc.

One common string that binds all the renewable energy technologies as you might have guessed till now is the "cost vs. efficiency" factor. The third angle to this is, "why aren't people adopting it?" The number one reason I think is the marketing! How many solar/ wind companies in India actually market their products. Yes, this happens in conferences and exhibitions which are more of a B2B rather than a B2C ventures. Remember that computers were introduced as an industrial  machine but now has found its place with retail customers. Same could be the case with any renewable energy technology. I know how. Now you do. So what are we waiting for?

Let the thought shine..
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