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The first EAI Club Meet of 2011 was held last week (31st January). This edition of the meet was quite different from the past Club Meets and had many firsts. The meet for the first time was held at a new place, Integree Projects Limited, Nungambakkam. Integree is one of the pioneers in the detail design & engineering of Water Treatment Plants, Power projects and Allied Infrastructure works. The meet also featured speakers who have rich experience in the renewable energy industry. Apart from the regular attendees, some new faces were seen at the club meet.

The sunny Sunday served as a platform for knowledge sharing and created new avenues for a one-to-one networking. The meet for the first time had an international speaker in the form of Mr. Victor Thamburaj. Mr. Thamburaj is the founder and CEO of iPLON GmbH, a Germany based firm providing intelligent monitoring solutions to Solar PV farms. An alumnus of IIT Madras, Mr. Thamburaj has more than 5 years of practical experience in installation of large (MW size) and small scale solar PV farms (kW size) in Germany and Italy. iPLON, a revered client of EAI, has so far installed monitoring systems in more than 100 MW of Solar PV farms.

Mr. Thamburaj

Mr. Thamburaj

 

Mr. Thamburaj started off by mentioning that about 5-7% of Germany’s total power generation is met by energy produced from renewable energy resources. He explained how the German Solar PV market is evolving and the trends in the other countries like Italy and France.  Mr. Thamburaj then gave a brief summary of the key features of iPLON’s monitoring systems. The most important feature of this tool is that it is independent of the inverter provider and works for any type of inverter(like SMA, Kaco, Fronius, etc). The advantage with inverter independent monitoring systems is that different brands of inverters can be used in the same solar PV farm and gives the Project Developers greater flexibility in selecting inverters.

After this, Mr. Thamburaj elaborated on the parameters on which a solar farm is designed. These parameters include the types of panels, space and inverters. A lot of money and effort is being put in the research and developing solar cells with increased efficiency. An estimated 2 billion Euros is currently being spent on the research and development of high efficiency Solar cells. He expanded on how inverters play a crucial role in determining the efficiency of the entire solar farm. The latest innovations in the inverters include developing Multiple Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT). Also being developed is a string type MMPT which monitors the performance of each panel connected to the string.

 

Finally he raised the issue of lack of skilled technicians who can commission and maintain solar PV farms. It is estimated that about 150,000 people will be required in the Indian Solar industry in the next 10 years and unless addressed, a shortage of skilled manpower has the potential to derail the growth of this nascent industry. iPLON in the coming years plans to identify and train skilled technicians all over India, starting with Tamil Nadu. iPLON has already started conducting training sessions(one in Kochi and one in Hyderabad). The training material from these sessions is available at www.mass2india.com .

Mr. Thamburaj’s speech was followed by a lively interactive session.

Mr. Krishnasamy

Mr. Krishnasamy

The second session was a presentation by Mr. Krishnasamy, Director, Energreen Power. Mr. Krishnasamy is a regular and active member of the EAI Club. He specializes in the field of Biomass gasification and brings with him more than one decade of experience in this field. Mr. Krishnasamy started off by explaining how the biomass industry has been evolving in the last 40 years. He explained his views on how his company has come up with an innovative technology which has attractive returns on the investment. This power plant produces charcoal as by-product which is about 25% by capacity. Further, this highly profitable by-product makes neutral the fluctuating cost of biomass

 

Mr. Krishasamy elaborated on the different biomass based technologies like Pyrolysis, Combustion and Gasification. He also provided very useful insights into the biomass feedstocks and the challenges the industry is facing in terms of price inflation of agro residue and also collection issues. He shared his views on energy crop farming, especially Bamboo, and also on the future potential of biomass based power generation.

In conclusion, he highlighted that the Renewable Energy Certificates(RECs) driven by Renewable Energy Purchase Obligations(RPOs) has driven the market into the search for cost-effective power production and Biomass based power generation is a turning out to be a very attractive option.

Overall the meet has had a face-lift and is evolving in the right direction. In future we believe the event will catalyze the renewable energy movement across the country. I see the meet spreading its base across the nation in the coming days.