A new "leaf" in the solar energy story in India

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 0 comments

For years, scientists all over the world have been the powerhouse for driving the economy by coming up with new innovations that could attempt to answer the "power of future". The product takes years of research, combining past formulas and coming up with new variations. Then the real task of implementing these formulas on the real systems comes into picture. Then the prototype undergoes rigorous testing under varied conditions. After taking cues from the test results and incorporating the changes in the prototype, we come across an article which says "The world's artificial leaf created". Kudos to all the scientists working day-in and day-out towards innovating products to make this world a better and convenient place to live in.

Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT… I assume around 2 out of the 5 innovations in the world comes up from this place J), have created an artificial leaf which works on the similar "photosynthesis" process. The leaf splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight at an economical cost. The H and O can be used to produce electricity via fuel cells.

The structure of the leaf contains silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances to accelerate the process at low voltages. The prototype has worked for 45 continuously without any drop in the efficiency levels. Nocera, the developing firm is optimistic of rolling it out in India by end of 2011.

This "artificial leaf" is hailed as the next big thing for addressing the energy issues in developing and under-developed countries. According to the people involved, a single gallon of water can provide power enough for a whole day's energy requirement in a family. And the best part is, it doesn't need ultra pure water!!!

So what is your take on this new development?

Image Source: Imperial College London
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Building Solar Power Capability in India through Public Private Partnership (PPP) and BOT Model

Friday, March 18, 2011 5 comments

For sometime now, I have been involved in tracking the infrastructure industry including roads and highway sector. Taking a cue from the best practices followed over there, I think we should get a fresh perspective of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) trend that has dominated the infrastructure scenario in India. Let's take a scenario.
·        Government (Central/ State) identifies land banks (preferably barren) and secures up to 80 percent of the land.
·        A central solar agency drafts a agreement on the similar lines as Model Concession Agreement (MCA)
·        A Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model should be defined which employs Solar EPC players, pays them for operating the plant and after a stipulated period transfers the project to government
·        Agreement can include
·        The land could be allocated for 50 years on a lease
·        The tariff for each plant to be decided based on the DNI data
·        EPC contractors are invited for the bids for a solar power plant. Based on the DNI data and company competence, company can go for either of the technology i.e. CSP or PV
·        PPA would be signed between the government and utility company
·        Regular tariff should be low preferably – INR 10 (indicative) and based on inflation it should be raised every year.
·        Give the benefit of accelerated depreciation and related benefits to EPC contractors/ Project owners

I think maybe this model can be given a shot and initial 2-3 projects can be rolled out. This would entail multiple benefits:
·        Low EPC risk exposure
·        Increase in solar project implementation
·        Land-acquisition solved
·        Transparent system of allotting the project - L1 can be a criterion along with multiple qualitative factors
·        Financial feasibility of projects

Please let me know your comments on this model. Is it workable, too hypothetical, practical? We do realise that there is a need for something radical to change the current slow implementation of solar projects. So, what is it?
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Penalties to be imposed on the Solar Power Developers in Gujarat, India

Thursday, March 10, 2011 1 comments

The recent news from Bloomberg desk came as a pleasant surprise to me. According to Bloomberg, Gujarat government (an Indian state) is planning to penalize the companies who are running behind their schedules for solar project implementation. Currently, around five of six project planned to be commissioned by 2011 are in time overrun stage (approximately 48.5 MW capacity). A senior executive from GEDA has said that "There will be some penalty".
This can act as a fine example of how central government can also impose similar penalties on companies who readily sign on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) but don't initiate the action plan. According to the PPA, each company has to pay penalties for delays
·        10,000 rupees ($222) a day per megawatt for the first 60 days
·        15,000 rupees thereafter
All said and done, the question arises "Is the monetary penalties an only solution?" Also, "what can be learnt from these project glitches?"
I am taking to a couple of industry experts on these issues. I will update this post on the same.
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