Recent reports talked of the world’s largest solar steam cooking system that was installed at the Saibaba Sansthan Trust in Shirdi, Maharashtra, to cook food for 20,000 pilgrims every day. The system, designed and installed by Gujarat-based Gaddhia Solar Energy Systems was completed within 10 months. It comprises 73 automatically tracked solar dishes and generates around 3,500 kg of steam daily.
What is interesting is the role of government and its incentives in this phenomenon.
The total cost of the system is Rs 1.33 crore and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) provided a subsidy of Rs 58.4 lakh to the Trust for the same.
Well, with the government keen on such incentives for off-grid solar and other renewable energy applications, manufacturers of small capacity solar-powered systems like Gadhia which make home lighting systems, solar lanterns, pumps, traffic blinkers, illuminating hoardings and billboards, cookers, geysers, traffic signals and even standalone power plants — all clubbed as ‘off-grid’ — have a lot more reason to smile.
The Centre is keen on promoting such off-grid coonections, and is likely to promote soft loans especially for the small scale manufacturers and investors.
While the Indian government has set a target of 1,000 MW for solar power generation during the Eleventh Five Year Plan, and 20 Giga watts (GW) by 2020, these primarily comprise huge grid-connect solar power plants from the likes of Tata BP Solar India and Moser Baer. The little-documented story is that of off-grid solar-based applications, for which the government has planned an outlay of Rs 375 crore till the remaining period of the 11th Plan.
It is heartening to note that the Indian government is targeting 2 million such SPV applications by 2020. Till March-end 2009, a total of about 637,000 solar cookers, 434,692 home lighting systems, and 697,419 lanterns have been provided to people in the country. Moreover, solar home lighting systems have been provided in 5,379 unelectrified villages under the government’s Remote Village Electrification Programme.
The governments of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh and Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh have also issued orders to urban local bodies to make solar water heaters mandatory in functional buildings.
With such frenetic activity in distributed (off-grid) solar energy applications, let’s hope that the entrepreneurs and businesses start looking at these segments more positively than they are doing right now.
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