Blog by Sree Karmik

Solar Photovoltaics for Dummies

/ solar, renewable energy, sreekarmik

Prospects of Solar Power System

By a dummy with the dumb facts we never cared about

Imagine generating your own power all by yourself - We’re talking about simple, lame looking black coloured sheets that apparently convert sunlight to electricity.

It was pretty much out of the box to bring about a revolution with a stereotypical technology. Imagine generating your own power all by yourself and it does not need a state of the art Arc reactor technology that Tony Stark built to power the Stark Towers. We’re talking much simpler, lame looking black coloured sheets that apparently convert sunlight to electricity. Solar has now turned so stereotypical, everyone talks about it and knows about it or would love to think they know about it. If you are one of the millions who know everything about the technology (pun-intended) do read below and let my karma do me good.

1. It is not cheap!

Cost of Solar Power System

Many people perceive it to be a cheap technology. The complexity of manufacturing these panels are numerous and not a child’s play. The bare minimum requirement of solar power systems for a simple household of three people with limited means, a few lights a few fans, a refrigerator, water pump, etc. would cost no less than ₹1 lakh including charge controllers, panels, batteries, inverters, basic mounting structures, small time wiring and any sundries. Anyone you know who claims to “provide state of the art systems” whose figures don’t match the above, duck and run before it’s late.

2. No it won’t zero down your electricity consumption

Cost of Solar Power System

If you’ve done errands of running down to the EB office once every two months during your summer vacations, you might be aware that every household typically pays from ₹30 to ₹40 for two months (fixed charges) which is in-evitable. You can connect any appliance you use like TVs, Lights, Fans, Motors, Refrigerator, Mixer grinder, PCs, a couple of charging ports and a few power sockets.

But heavy appliances with high surge currents like Air-cooling systems, Hot iron, electric geyser (consider solar water heaters instead), cooking ovens would not make to that list. Connecting these high surge appliances to the inverter-battery system will in general lead to overloads, and might “kill” the battery sooner than the prescribed life.

3. You can supply to the EB but not on your whims

Grid tie Solar Power System

There is more of an engineering term I’d introduce you to, Grid-tie! So you buy a villa with a good roof space and spend the time, money, energy to install a rooftop solar power system. What the govt offers is this, you will supply the electricity to the EB (to the “Grid”) and consume from the EB’s Grid. The net metering system (using a bi-directional meter) allows you to calculate the difference between what the household has consumed and how much the rooftop system has produced, and consumer directly saves cost in terms of units generated.

Be sure to not produce in excess of your consumption. Your solar generation should be less than 90% of what you consume. In simpler terms, if you decide to go for a vacation for a few days and you are producing surplus power that adds up to your energy credit, you HAVE to consume the credited energy by the end of the year to avoid losing that energy points.

The idea of grid-tie also prohibits consumers from using a battery back-up, implying the household will suffer from the load shut-down anyways not only denying you of the power-backup but also isolating your rooftop system from production, implying it can supply to the EB grid only when the load is back on line. To add a cherry on top, the EB can approve only a limited number of projects in the locality depending on the transformers capacity.

OR, go Off-Grid and save yourself from all the scuffle.

4. It lasts a lifetime

Grid tie Solar Power System

Technically any machine is bound to have a life, batteries last for 7 years minimum, standard batteries come with a 5 year warranty, inverters come with a 2 to 4 years warranty last forever (provided you don’t throw them off the window or it takes a bath in the rain), and solar panels come with a 25 years manufacturer’s warranty. Other than refilling the batteries with distilled water once a few months, and cleaning the panels for any crow-spatter, this system has no maintenance for its lifetime.

5. Subsidy?

Grid tie Solar Power System

It is a sad fact that the MNRE and the State govts. have taken utmost steps to cut down costs on the consumers which have totally gone in vain. Subsidy for example, exists only for grid-tie systems and not off-grid systems where the consumer generates his own power. A few hundred crores are pending from the MNRE to be paid to the solar power companies to make up for the “subsidy”. It is also a recent development that the MNRE is planning for a gross metering system for the grid-tie systems, which could affect consumers adversely due to low fixation of export tarrifs and high impact due to tarrif slabs.

Having said the above, our home and office is powered by a 2kW solar system, we occasionally use AC, and we have a very bad habit of growing trees around the home that gives optimum shade and lowers the heat effect on our building. Result, we pay ₹120 per month for EB apart from fixed charges.

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