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Introduction to Non Conventional sources of energy

With increasing demand for energy and with fast depleting conventional sources of
energy such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc. the non-conventional sources of
energy such as energy from sun, wind, biomass, tidal energy, geo-thermal energy and
even energy from waste material are gaining importance. This energy is abundant,
renewable, pollution free and eco-friendly.

It can be more conveniently supplied to urban, rural and even remote areas. Thus it is
capable of solving the twin problems of energy supply in a decentralised manner and
helping in sustaining cleaner environment. It is the energy of the future. No wonder,
non-conventional energy is fast catching the imagination of the people in India.

The importance of renewable energy was recognised in the country in the early 1970s.
The renewable energy programme started with the establishment of the Department of
Non-conventional Energy Sources (DNES) in 1982. Indian Renewable Energy
Development Agency (IREDA) was set up in 1987.

In 1992, DNES was converted into Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources

(MNES) which has taken several steps to create a suitable atmosphere for harnessing
non-conventional sources of energy. India has today one of the largest programmes for
renewable energy.

The activities cover all major renewable energy sources, such as biogas, biomass,
solar, wind, small hydropower and other emerging technologies. Several renewable
energy systems and devices are commercially available. The renewable energy
programmes cover the entire gamut of technologies, including improved wood stoves,
biogas plant, biomass gasifier, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic systems, wind mill,
-generation, small hydropower, energy recovery from urban/municipal and industrial
wastes, geothermal energy, hydrogen energy, electric vehicles and bio-fuels, etc.

According to energy experts, Indias non- conventional energy potential is estimated at

about 1, 95,000 MW. An estimate of 31 per cent of this potential comes from sun, 30 per
cent from ocean-thermal, 26 per cent from bio-fuel and 13 per cent from wind
Solar Energy

Sun is the source of all energy on the earth. India, being a tropical country, is well
endowed with plenty of solar energy. Most parts of the country have bright sun-shine
throughout the year except a brief monsoon period.

As our country is literally soaked in sunshine, exploitation of solar energy is an

extremely important component of renewable energy sector through both the thermal
and photovoltaic routes for a variety of applications like cooking, water heating, drying of
farm produce, water pumping, home and street lighting, power generation for meeting
decentralised requirements in villages, schools, hospitals, etc. India receives solar
energy equivalent to over 5,000 trillion kWh per year which is far more than the total
energy consumption of the country.

The daily average of solar energy incident over India varies from 4 to 7
kWh/m2depending upon the location. Solar water heaters, solar refrigeration, solar
drying, street lighting, cooking, pumping, power generation, photovoltaic solar cells,
solar ponds, etc. are becoming very popular in different parts of the country.
Although solar energy can be gainfully used in any part of the country except some
higher areas in the Himalayan ranges, the Thar Desert of Rajasthan holds great
promise in this direction. Scientists are of the opinion that the vast expanse of the Thar
Desert could well earn the distinction of being the biggest solar power house of the
world by the year 2010 producing 10,000 MW of electricity.

A major chunk of the desert will be declared as Solar Energy Enterprise Zone like the
one in Nevada (USA). Parts of Kathiawar peninsula. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra
Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana
and Punjab also hold great possibilities of harnessing solar energy. Map in Figure 26.10
shows annual mean daily global solar electric conversion potential in India.

Solar radiant energy can be used through thermal as well as photovoltaic routes. Both
solar, thermal and photovoltaic applications have large potential in the country.
Solar Thermal Energy

Soaked in abundant sunshine, India offers an excellent opportunity for converting solar
energy to thermal energy. Several solar thermal technologies have been developed.
These include solar water heaters, solar cookers, solar heaters, solar distillation
systems, etc.

Research and development in the field of solar thermal energy is continuously being
pursued in the country for over three decades. As a result, several products have been
developed indigenously. To promote these products, a subsidy-based thermal extension
programme was launched in 1984 and continued upto 1993.

This initiative had resulted in disseminating the solar thermal products in different parts
of the country. The main objectives of the Solar Thermal Energy Programme, being
implemented by the Ministry of Non- conventional Energy Source (MNES), are market
development, commercialization and utilization of solar thermal systems for the
fulfilment of heat energy requirements of different applications in domestic, institutional
and industrial sectors. It has five components viz. Solar Thermal Extension Programme,
Solar Cooker Programme, Solar Buildings Programme, Research and Development
(R&D) Programme and Aditya Solar Shops.

Utilisation of solar thermal energy

1. Solar water heating

Solar Water heating is one of the main technologies being promoted by MNES. Water
heating technology for low temperature range is mainly based on flat plate collectors,
which absorb solar radiation and raise the temperature of water upto 80C.

This hot water can be used for various applications in homes, hotels, hostels,
restaurants and hospitals. Hot water at this temperature is used in a number of
industries also. Solar water systems (solar geysers) of capacities ranging from 100 to
300 litres per day are suited for domestic applications. Larger systems from hundreds to
thousands of litres are used in commercial and industrial establishments.
Due to the efforts made by MNES during the last several years both the technology and
the manufacturing base for solar water heating is now well established. Although the
initial cost of solar water heating system is rather high, the system pays back the
investment within 3 to 6 years depending on the fuels substituted.

The technical potential of solar water heaters in the country has been estimated to be
140 million sq metres of collector area. With only about 0.80 million sq m collector are
developed till 31 March, 2004, there is an enormous possibility for harvesting solar
energy through this technology. With the increasing acceptability in the residential
sector, solar water heaters can be set up in multistoried residential flats for meeting the
hot water requirement.

The use of solar water heaters saves electricity and contributes to a reduction in peak
load demand. It has been estimated that the use of 1000 domestic solar water heating
systems of 100 litres capacity each can contribute to a peak load shaving of 1 MW.

2. Solar air heaters and dryers

Solar air heaters and dryers can conveniently be used both in industry and agriculture.
Already a number of solar drying systems have been installed in the country and these
are helping to save significant amounts of conventional fuels.

Among the industries using these are tea, food processing, dal mills and spice
manufacturers. Solar air heaters are also being used for space heating in the cold
regions. Various types of collectors have been fabricated and are currently under use.

3. Solar cooker

Solar cooker is a simple device which cooks food with the help of solar energy and
saves conventional fuels to a significant extent. On clear sunny days, it is possible to
cook both noon and evening meals with a solar cooking device. Different types of solar
cookers have been developed in the past, which include box solar cooker, steam
cooker, solar meal maker with heat storage and concentrating type community cooker.
The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) had been promoting the box
solar cooker in the country till 1993-94 due to its various advantages over the others.
Thereafter, different designs of solar cooker have been propagated under its market-
oriented and demonstration programmes.

Currently two types of cookers, viz., box solar cooker and concentration type cooker are
popular among the users. Box solar cooker can cook meals for a family of 4 to 5
members and saves 3 to 4 LPG cylinders in a year on full use. If provided with electrical
back-up, it can be used during non-sunshine hours also within the kitchen with nominal
consumption of electricity.

Concentrating type solar cooker is of three broad types, viz., dish solar cooker,
community solar cooker and solar steam cooking system. Dish solar cooker is a fast
cooking device which can cook food for 10 to 15 people under sun. It saves upto 10
LPG cylinders per year on full use in small establishments.

Community solar cooker (Schefler) can cook food for around 40 people inside the
kitchen and saves 35 LPG cylinders per year on full use in community kitchens. Solar
steam cooking system can cook food for thousands of people using steam inside the
kitchen in very short time It is useful for installation at ashrams, temples, churches,
gurudwaras, etc.

A solar cooking system has been installed in Shirdi to cater to 3,000 devotees every
day. Worlds largest system with a capacity to prepare food for 15,000 pilgrims was also
set up by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam in October, 2002.

Solar cooking has been picking up fast with a number of households and institutions,
especially those attracting large number of visitors, evincing interest in installing
different solar cooking systems depending upon the number of persons for whom they
have to prepare food every day. As on 31st March, 2004, as many as 5, 55,000 box
type solar cookers, 10 concentrating type community cookers and 2,000 Schefler dish
type solar cookers were in use in India.
4. Generation of Electricity

Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) technology enables direct conversion of sunlight into electricity
without any moving parts and without causing pollution. Photovoltaic systems and
power plants have emerged as viable power sources for applications such as lighting,
water pumping and telecommunication and are being increasingly used for meeting the
electrical energy needs in remote villages, hamlets and hospitals, besides households
in the hilly, forest, desert and island.

During the past few years, many organisations have started using SPV systems for a
variety of applications on commercial basis as these are found to be economically
viable as compared to other alternatives. Recently a programme on the deployment of
SPV water pumping systems for agriculture and related uses has been implemented.

The approximate potential of SPV system is 20 MW per sq km. As on 31st March, 2004
as many as 5,102 solar street lighting systems, 3, 07,763 home lighting systems, 5,
38,718 solar lanterns, 851 kWp power plants and 6,452 solar PV pumps were installed
in different parts of the country. As on 31st July 2005, 2,365 houses in Delhi run on solar

Efforts are being made to popularise the use of solar greenhouse for growing
vegetables during off-season in cold and dry areas of Leh and Kargil. Solarised huts are
being designed in cold areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to keep the
buildings warm.

Solar Power in India

Solar power in India is a fast growing industry. As of 30 April 2017, the country's solar
grid had a cumulative capacity of 12.50 GW. India quadrupled its solar-generation
capacity from 2,650 MW on 26 May 2014 to 12,289 MW on 31 March 2017. The country
added 3.01 GW of solar capacity in 2015-2016 and 5.525 GW in 2016-2017, the highest
of any year, with the average current price of solar electricity dropping to 18% below the
average price of its coal-fired counterpart.
In January 2015 the Indian government expanded its solar plans, targeting US$100
billion in investment and 100 GW of solar capacity (including 40 GW from rooftop solar)
by 2022.[5][6][7][8][9] About India's interest in solar power, Prime Minister Narendra
Modi said at the 2015 COP21 climate conference in Paris: "The world must turn to (the)
sun to power our future. As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity,
our hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold, global initiative."[10]India's initiative of
100 GW of solar energy by 2022 is an ambitious target, since the world's installed solar-
power capacity in 2014 was 181 GW.[10]

In addition to its large-scale grid-connected solar PV initiative, India is developing off-

grid solar power for local energy needs. The country has a poor rural electrification rate;
in 2015 only 55 percent of all rural households had access to electricity, and 85 percent
of rural households depended on solid fuel for cooking.[11] Solar products have
increasingly helped to meet rural needs; by the end of 2015 just under one million solar
lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene.[11]That year, 118,700
solar home lighting systems were installed and 46,655 solar street lighting installations
were provided under a national program;[11] just over 1.4 million solar cookers were
distributed in India.[11]

In January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Franois
Hollande laid the foundation stone for the headquarters of the International Solar
Alliance (ISA) in Gwal Pahari, Gurugram. The ISA will focus on promoting and
developing solar energy and solar products for countries lying wholly or partially
between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The alliance of over 120
countries was announced at the Paris COP21 climate summit.[12] One hope of the ISA
is that wider deployment will reduce production and development costs, facilitating the
increased deployment of solar technologies to poor and remote regions.

Construction and working principle of solar power plant

Figure shows a solar power plant with a low temperature solar engine using heated
water from flat plate solar collector and Butane as the working fluid. This was developed
to lift water for irrigation purposes.

1. Solar collectors
a) Flat plate collector
In a flat plate collector (figure), the radiation energy of the sun falls on a flat
surface coated with black paint having high absorbing capacity. It is placed facing the
general direction of the sun. The materials used for the plate may be copper, steel
aluminium. The thickness of the plate is 1 to 2 mm. Tubing of copper is provided in
thermal contact with the plate.
Heat is transferred from the absorbed plate to water which is circulated in the
copper tubes through the flat plate collection.

Thermal insulation is provided behind the absorber plate to prevent heat losses
from the rear surface. Insulating material is generally fibre glass or mineral wool. The
front cover is made up of glass and it is transparent to the incoming solar radiations.
b) Cylindrical parabolic concentrator collector

Concentrator collectors (figure) are of reflecting type utilizing mirrors. The

reflecting surface may be parabolic mirror. The solar energy falling on the collector
surface is reflected and focused along a line where the absorber tube is located. As
large quantity of energy falling on the collector surface is collected over a small
surface, the temperature of the absorber fluid is very much higher than in flat plate

While flat place collectors may be used to heat water upto 80C (low
temperature), the concentrating type of collectors are designed to heat water to
medium and high temperature ranges.

c) Butane boiler
The water heated in flat plate solar collector to 80C is used for boiling butane at
high pressure in the butane boiler. Boiling point of butane is about 50C.

d) Turbine
The butane vapour generated at high pressure in the boiler is used to run the
vapour turbine which drives the electrical generator.

The vapour coming out of the turbine at low pressure is condensed in a

condenser using water. The condensed liquid butane is fed back to the butane boiler
using feed pump.

Tower concept for power generation

The tower concept consists of an array of plane mirrors or heliostats which are
individually controlled to reflect radiations from the sun into a boiler mounted on a 500
metres high tower. Steam in generated in the boiler, which may attain a temperature
upto 2000K. Electricity is generated by passing steam through the turbine coupled to a

Figure: Tower concept for power generation.

Important points about Solar power plants

land is required to setup a 1MW solar power generation Unit

The land required for a 1 MW power plant setup is around 4.5-5 acres for Crystalline
technology and around 6.5-7.5 acres for Thin-Film technology. This is only a rough
benchmark and may vary based on technology and efficiency of panels.

life-time of a typical Solar Power plant

The useful life of a typical Solar Power plant is considered to be 25 years. This is the
duration for which long-term PPAs are signed and financial models are built. However,
Solar Power plants can run beyond 25 years while producing a lower output. Many
Solar Panel manufacturers guarantee an output of 90% at the end of 10 years and 80%
at the end of 25 years.

annual energy generated from a 1 MW Solar Power plant

The usual benchmark for energy generated from a 1 MW Solar Power plant is
considered as 1.5 Million units. This is only a benchmark and should not be
considered as the actual output for a given location. The amount of actual energy
generated from a Solar Power Plant in an year depends on both internal and external
factors. External factors which are beyond the control of a Solar developer can include
the following:

Number of sunny days

Solar Irradiation

Day Temperatures

Air Mass

The output also depends on the following internal factors all of which are within the
control of a Solar Developer:

Plant Location

Usage of Solar Tracking systems

Quality of equipment used

Workmanship of the EPC contractor

O&M activities

various modes under which we can setup a Solar Power plant

The various modes under which a Solar Power plant can be setup depends on the
specific requirement. All the following are valid modes and the costs for each kind of
system varies based on various factors:

Off-Grid Captive Consumption for domestic premises

Off-Grid Captive Consumption for commercial premises

Grid Connected (Net Metered) Captive Consumption for domestic premises

Grid Connected (Net Metered) Captive Consumption for commercial premises

Sale of Power generated to local Distribution Company (DISCOM)

Sale of Power generated to 3rd Party consumer (Industry or Commercial entity)

cost of setting up a Rooftop Solar Power plant for domestic or commercial use

Rooftop Solar Power plants can be broadly categorized into Battery-based and Non-
Battery based systems. The benchmark cost set by MNRE for the year 2013-14 for
these systems are Rs.90-100 per W for Non-Battery based systems and Rs.170-210
per W for Battery-based systems.

size Solar Power plant is required for domestic or commercial use

Identifying the Solar Power plant size for your domestic or commercial premises
depends on the following factors:

Wattage of appliances to be run on Solar

Monthly energy consumption from these appliances

Energy Backup or Days of Autonomy required

Roof space available for plant setup

Based on these factors, the power plant sizing can be accordingly done .

Advantages, disadvantages and application of Solar Energy


1. Sun is essentially an infinite source of energy. Therefore solar energy is a very

large inexhaustible and renewable source of energy and is freely available all
over the world.

2. It is environmentally very clean and is hence pollution-free.

3. It is a dependable energy source without new requirements of a highly
technical and specialized nature for its wide spread utilization.

4. It is the best alternative for the rapid depletion of fossil fuels.


1. It is available in a dilute and is at low potential. The intensity of solar energy on

a sunny day in India is about 1.1 kW/square meter area. Hence very large
collecting areas are required.
2. Also the dilute and diffused nature of the solar energy needs large land area for
the power plant for instance, about 30 square kilometers area is required for a
solar power station to replace a nuclear plant on a 1 square kilometer site. Hence
capital cost is more for the solar plant.
3. Solar energy is not available at night or during cloudy or rainy days.

Applications of Solar Energy:

Applications of solar energy enjoying most success today are:

1. Solar engines for pumping.
2. Solar water heaters.
3. Solar cookers.
4. Solar driers.
5. Solar furnaces.
6. Photo-voltaic conversion (solar cells)
7. Solar power generation.