Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Solar energy not war

Solar energy not war
Sunita Narain

If you know that a sector has arrived when it makes for trade wars between countries, then solar energy clearly has. Last year, the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports of solar panels; now the EU has proposed the same. The Chinese have in turn threatened that they will take action against European exports of poly-silicon, the material used for manufacturing solar panels. In February this year, the US filed a case against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for “favouring sourcing of panels from domestic manufacturers”. Earlier this month, Canada lost a similar case filed against it at WTO for its support to domestic manufacturers in procurement of solar panels. So, what you thought was all good and nice has suddenly become the biggest bugbear in international trade relations. It tells you that this sector is growing, it is lucrative and it makes for fierce trade politics and competitiveness.

But this is only part of the story. The big issue underlying these “wars” is the role of solar energy—a new source of power to lead the world to a low-carbon future and thus, away from the looming climate crisis. It has big objectives.

First, it has to become cheap so that it can achieve grid parity and compete with the dinosaur in the market: coal and oil. This can only happen when its deployment is greatly scaled up. Secondly, it has to reinvent green growth. This is why solar energy has been “sold” as an alternative industry, which will add to employment. It is the economy of the future. Thirdly, it has to secure needs of the most energy-poor. In other words, this relatively expensive and certainly most modern energy system should reach the poorest millions living in darkness. This would mean cutting the cost of supply, building networks to distribute and doing all that has not been done before.

Comment by Anumakonda Jagadeesh

June 12, 2013: Solar co-operatives exist in US,Germany,Canada etc. Windfarm co-operatives are already there in Denmark,Australia,Germany,Netherlands,UK and United States.

Co-operative ownership of renewable energy is not new. In Denmark 23% of the country’s energy supply comes from 3,000 wind turbines owned by approximately 150,000 co-operative members. In 1997, Baywind in Cumbria became the first community owned renewable installation in the UK. It has been paying out interest to members on an annual basis ever since. As a result, Baywind was inundated with questions from other community groups wanting to do the same thing and this led to the creation of Energy4All in 2002. Since then Energy4All has helped to set up 7 wind co-operatives in the UK with over 6,000 members. This has led to communities all over the UK starting to set up other wind, hydropower and solar co-operatives along similar lines to these original wind co-ops.
Co-operatives are democratic structures with the legal ability to raise money directly from members of the public. With a one member one vote system and a board elected from the membership, they offer a fair and transparent way to operate a community owned renewable energy business. They also have the power to prioritise investment from the local area, ensuring that as much as possible, financial benefits from renewable energy are felt by people in the locality. They are registered and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
The introduction of Feed in Tariffs (FIT) in April 2010 has started to create more financially viable opportunities for communities to own a range of renewable energy installations at medium scale.
The largest energy coops in the UK are devoted to wind power, but the number of solar coops is growing. There’s plenty of room for more: the largest solar coop in the US has 1.3 million members!
Community energy is not a new concept: on the continent, for example, citizens of Denmark and Germany own 20% of their green energy capacity. 
Westmill Solar Co-operative is the industrial and provident society that owns the Westmill Solar Park, believed to be the largest community-ownedphotovoltaic power station in the world.
The project was originally conceived by Adam Twine, the pioneer behind the neighbouring Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative, built in 2011 and registered for the UK feed-in tariffs. It has a capacity of 5 MWP.
Westmill Solar Co-operative acquired the solar park in October 2012, under an option agreement with the original developers. It raised the necessary finance through public and private share offers and a senior debt bond with a pension fund.
Westmill solar park is in the United Kingdom located on a site of 30 acres near to Watchfield, on the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border, just off the A420.The site adjoins that of the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative.
The solar power plant has over 21,000 solar panels and has been operational since July 2011.  When acquired by the Co-operative, it was the largest community-owned photovoltaic power station in the world.
Here are just some of the many successful community energy schemes in the UK:
Leominster Community Solar (LCS)
LCS installed a 49kW solar array on Bridge Street Sports Centre in Leominster in November 2011.
The site generates clean, green electricity for the centre. The Coop raised The £150,725 from 94 locals, and the scheme was oversubscribed by 40%.
Lewes’ Ovesco installed a large photovoltaic system on the roof of the Harveys warehouse in July 2011. The 544 photovoltaic (PV) panels generate 92,000 kWh hours of green electricity each year — enough to save more than 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
The Coop raised £307,000, mostly via a share offer in the local community.
Bath and West Community Energy
BWCE launched a £400,000 community share offer in September 2011. Over the next four months they installed solar PV on several schools in the area, part of 1.5 megawatts of community-owned solar in the area.
Brixton Energy
London’s first cooperatively owned solar power project was launched in March 2012. Brixton Energy Solar 1 houses several hundred square metres of solar panels on the roof of Elmore House in the Loughborough Estate in Brixton. The solar panels started generating power on the 30th of March 2012.
In 1996/7 the communities of Ulverston and Barrow in Cumbria raised £1.2 million to buy two turbines. In 1998/99 a second share offer raised a further £670,000 to buy another turbine. Since then they’ve built 5 other projects. The co-op currently has over 1,300 shareholders throughout the UK and abroad.
Hockerton Housing Project
Hockerton Housing Project is the UK’s first earth sheltered sustainable housing development: together the five houses generate 80% their energy needs onsite through wind turbines and solar pv, topped up by a renewable energy tariff – zero carbon since 1997!
Sustainable Hockerton installed a community-owned wind turbine in 2009, generating electricity equivalent to the amount used by homes in the parish. The 75 members invested a total of £235,000 and receive interest on their shares; and remaining profits will be invested in local sustainability projects.
Boyndie Wind Farm Co-op
Boyndie Wind Farm Co-op raised £750.000 and purchased a stake in Falck Renewables in 2006. The 716 members, each with a shareholding ranging from £250 to £20,000, receive annual interest on their shares. The wind farm generates 14 MW at full capacity.
Fesa in south Germany raises capital for energy co-op projects in South-Baden. So far they have raised about €20 million for investments in regional energy systems, including nine wind turbines, eight solar power systems, one hydroelectric power system and a power saving scheme.
Danish Wind Guilds
Danish Wind Coops provided much of the early impetus behind Danish renewable energy 
Over 600MW of Denmark’s wind capacity is owned by guilds with over 100,000 members owning around 3200 turbines. Partnerships between the wind guilds and wind turbine manufactureres has helped Danish industry become a leading country once.

June 10, 2013: Here is an exciting story of crowd funding of loans for solar
development projects in US.
Mosaic is a solar project finance company based in Oakland, California. Founded in 2010, Mosaic enables crowd funding of loans for solar development projects. For that reason,GigaOM referred to the company as "the Kick starter for Solar”. Through this model, the company aims to democratize the social and environmental benefits of clean energy. Mosaic is a certified benefit corporation.
The company’s first three for-profit projects sold out within 24 hours in January and raised $300,000 from more than 500 investors who will earn a 4.5 percent return. This month, California regulators authorized Mosaic to offer up to $100 million in loans for commercial solar projects. Its first project under that authorization, a $157,750 loan to install a 114-kilowatt array on the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego, was funded within six hours by 171 investors.
Parish, 31, dropped out of Yale University a decade ago to co-found the Energy Action Coalition, a nationwide student network devoted to fighting climate change. But after the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, he decided that the most effective way to drive a clean
energy transition was to dive into the renewable energy business. In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Todd Woody, Parish talked about why his generation has pursued environmental goals through entrepreneurship, how crowd funding can fuel the solar revolution, and how he discovered “that sweet spot where making
money and doing good overlap.”
On Mosaic further plans Parish says,”I think Mosaic will evolve over time into a platform that more people see as an important part of a diversified investment portfolio. I think a lot of institutional investors, financial advisors, and individuals will put more capital to work in this space, and I think we’re well positioned to be the platform to facilitate that.
We have about 1,200 investors now in 44 states. The average investment is $1,000. They range from 18 years old to 95 years old and the mean investor age is 40, but the most common investor is 28 years old, probably lives in the [San Francisco] Bay Area. It’s not quite 60-40 male/female, and while the profile started out with more
philanthropic motivation, increasingly people are coming on because they like the investment on a pure returns basis.”
In India also similar ventures can be started to make Solar a people’s movement.

June 02, 2013: Excellent article Madam. The issues raised are pertinent.

India is densely populated and has high solar insolation, an ideal combination for using solar power in India. India is already a leader in wind power generation. In the solar energy sector, some large projects have been proposed, and a 35,000 km2 area of the Thar Desert has been set aside for solar power projects, sufficient to generate 700 GW to 2,100 GW. Also India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has released the JNNSM Phase 2 Draft Policy, by which the Government aims to install 10GW of Solar Power and of this 10 GW target, 4 GW would fall under the central scheme and the remaining 6 GW under various State specific schemes.

In July 2009, India unveiled a US$19 billion plan to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020. Under the plan, the use of solar-powered equipment and applications would be made compulsory in all government buildings, as well as hospitals and hotels. On 18 November 2009, it was reported that India was ready to launch its National Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, with plans to generate 1,000 MW of power by 2013. From August 2011 to July 2012, India went from 2.5 MW of grid connected photovoltaics to over 1,000 MW.

Land is a scarce resource in India and per capita land availability is low. Dedication of land area for exclusive installation of solar arrays might have to compete with other necessities that require land. The amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants—currently approximately 1 km2 for every 20–60 megawatts (MW) generated—could pose a strain on India's available land resource. The architecture more suitable for most of India would be a highly distributed set of individual rooftop power generation systems, all connected via a local grid. However, erecting such an infrastructure, which does not enjoy the economies of scale possible in mass,utility-scale, solar panel deployment, needs the market price of solar technology deployment to substantially decline, so that it attracts the individual and average family size household consumer. That might be possible in the future, because PV is projected to continue its current cost reductions for the next decades and be able to compete with fossil fuel.

Here I want to draw a parallel between Wind and Solar Energy development in India. Wind turbines were totally imported in 1990 and in no time Indian Wind Industry indigenized most parts and India occupies the 5th position in the World next only to China,US,Germany and Spain. When such a phenomenal success was there in Wind why these starting troubles in Solar PV? India with such a huge industrial infrastructure and talent can indigenize TOTAL SOLAR panel production. When China can do it why not India? Obviously somewhere something is holding back. When there is ban of Chinese Wind Turbines import, why Solar Components are allowed?

The development of wind power in India began in the 1990s, and has significantly increased in the last few years. Although a relative newcomer to the wind industry compared with Denmark or the United States, India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world. In 2009-10 India's growth rate was highest among the other top four countries.

As of 31 Jan 2013 the installed capacity of wind power in India was 19051.5MW, mainly spread across Tamil Nadu (7154 MW), Gujarat (3,093 MW), Maharashtra (2976 MW), Karnataka (2113 MW), Rajasthan (2355 MW), Madhya Pradesh (386 MW), Andhra Pradesh (435 MW), Kerala (35.1 MW), Orissa (2MW), West Bengal (1.1
MW) and other states (3.20 MW). It is estimated that 6,000 MW of additional wind power capacity will be installed in India by 2012. Wind power accounts for 6% of India's total installed power capacity, and it generates 1.6% of the country's power. India's wind atlas is available.

To make it a National movement why not we adopt Wind and Solar Co-operatives?

Need for Wind Turbine Co-operatives in India:

Wind turbine cooperatives - Origin from Denmark:

To encourage investment in wind power, families were offered a tax exemption for generating their own electricity within their own or an adjoining commune.While this could involve purchasing a turbine outright, more often families purchased shares in wind turbine cooperatives which in turn invested in community wind turbines.

The role of wind turbine cooperatives is not limited to single turbines. The Middelgrunden offshore wind farm – with 20 turbines the world's largest offshore farm at the time it was built in 2000 – is 50% owned by the 10,000 investors in the Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative, and 50% by the municipal utility company.

By 2001 over 100,000 families belonged to wind turbine cooperatives, which had installed 86% of all the wind turbines in Denmark. By 2004 over 150,000 were either members or owned turbines, and about 5,500 turbines had been installed, although with greater private sector involvement the proportion owned by cooperatives had fallen to 75%.

Financially, community-based wind projects are structured much differently than traditional wind farms. In the traditional model, the company that builds and manages a wind farm retains sole ownership of the development. The owners of the land on which the
wind turbines were built usually have no stake in development, and are instead compensated through lease payments or by royalty-based contracts. The more people that become involved through community wind power, the more democratic the energy supply system becomes. Energy sellers make a profit, landowners receive leasing fees, communities get improved infrastructure, local people get jobs, governments receive taxes, and consumers receive electricity
at competitive prices.


The Hepburn Wind Project is a wind farm at Leonards Hill near Daylesford, Victoria, north-west of Melbourne, Victoria.It comprises two 2MW wind turbines which produce enough power for 2,300 households.


A number of community wind projects are in development in Ontario but the first project that is likely to obtain a FIT contract and connect to the grid is the Pukwis Community Wind Park. Pukwis will be unique in that it is a joint Aboriginal/Community wind project that will be majority-owned by the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, with a local renewable energy cooperative (the Pukwis Energy Co-operative) owning the remainder of the project.


In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people have invested in citizens' wind farms across the country and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises are running successful businesses in a new sector that in 2008 employed 90,000 people and generated 8 percent of Germany's electricity. Wind power has gained very high social acceptance in Germany, with the development of community wind farms playing a major role.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has an active community of wind cooperatives. They build and operate wind parks in all regions of the Netherlands. This started in the 1980s with the first Lagerweij turbines. Back then, these turbines could be financed by the members of the cooperatives. Today, the cooperatives build larger wind parks, but not as large as commercial parties do. Some still operate self-sufficiently; others partner with larger commercial wind park developers.

United Kingdom

As of 2012, there are 43 communities who are in the process of or already producing renewable energy through co-operative structures in the UK. They are set up and run by everyday people, mostly local residents, who are investing their time and money and together installing large wind turbines, solar panels, or hydro-electric power for their local communities

United States

As of 2011, Iowa has just one community owned wind farm, that is Hardin Hilltop near Jefferson, Iowa. National Windis a large-scale community wind project developer, with thirteen families of projects in development or operation. These projects have an aggregate capacity of over 4,000 MW. The vision of the company is to revitalize rural economies by promoting investment in domestic renewable energy resources. National Wind creates shared ownership with communities and allows them participation in decisions which are made.

In India also Wind Farm /Solar Co-operatives can be started.

A ‘Wind Fund’ can be created by Government with contributions from Individuals paying Income Tax to get tax Exemption under Section 80C.

This fund will invest in Community Wind Farms (Wind Turbine Co-operatives) and Solar Co-operatives.

This way Wind and solar will become a mass movement.

In Rajasthan desert area a lot of Solar Farms are coming up.

I visited the area where the present Solar Projects were established. The Problem with Rajasthan is LOO.

One problem with solar panels that I have repeatedly raised is dust. It's everywhere, and the atmosphere is full of it. That's a lot of dust, and it coats everything, including solar panels. And more dust is kicked up by the wind.

Desert countries are of course best suited to photovoltaic generation, but keep in mind that arid regions also have a bigger problem with dust, that means PV panels have to be frequently cleaned to maintain optimum power production, and that of course requires a further expenditure of energy for maintenance.

Some countries are setting up Vast solar arrays in desert countries and exporting the power to other countries. And the bigger the solar park, the more people and machines will be needed to keep making the rounds and cleaning the panels, especially after a dust storm. This continuing expenditure of energy for maintenance needs to be taken into account. If cleaning is neglected, then before you know it a solar park's output will drop to half or even below as dust continues to accumulate.

Dust accumulation on the Solar Panels is a big problem especially in arid regions.

Everybody knows anything immobile is quickly covered, whether hanging laundry, parked cars or solar panels. Unless regularly removed, accumulated dust can in one month reduce a solar panel's efficiency by 35 per cent, according to some experts, more if there is a dust storm. Making matters worse is that, in addition to the dust that blows in from the desert, the region's relatively high humidity helps turn fine dust into a sort of crust. "It makes the dust stick,"

Using precious water in those regions is expensive nor regular cleaning manually large installations.

Why not Scientists develop non sticky dust glass ? A glass where the dust won't stick to the surface but slides with a periodic jerk. A motor can be fitted to the solar panels with a Timer and power for the motor can be obtained from solar panels themselves. In Rajasthan, India there is ambitious Solar PV Programme for large scale power. Dust storms in Rajasthan during summer are common which are carried to far way places.

The Loo is a strong, hot and dry summer afternoon wind from the west which blows over the western Indo-Gangetic Plain region of North India and Pakistan. It is especially strong in the months of May and June. Due to its very high temperatures (45 °C–50 °C or 115°F-120°F), exposure to it often leads to fatal heat strokes.

Here are interesting points on Desertec?

Desertec is a set of plans for a massive network of solar and wind farms stretching across the Mena region and intended to connect to Europe via high voltage direct current transmission cables (which are supposed to only lose 3% of their electricity per 1000 km, or 620 miles).

One of the difficulties in maintaining CSPs is the harsh desert itself; while damaging sandstorms are relatively rare, the troughs must be tilted away from the wind if it reaches a certain speed. Bodo Becker, operations manager at a German company specializing in building CSP plants designed for desert use, says that if the troughs are not moved away from high winds, they act like giant sails. (That’s definitely not good for the equipment.)

Keeping the troughs clean isn't easy, either; dry cleaning technology is being developed, but it doesn’t quite work yet. Currently, water is used both to cool the heat transfer fluid and clean the array. It’s a lot of water, according to Becker, as reported by the Guardian:

“Due to the dusty conditions, we are witnessing about 2% degradation every day in performance, so we need to clean them daily. We use about 39 cubic meters [10,300 gallons] of demineralized water each day for cleaning across the whole site.”

In the Rajasthan area where the solar farms are coming up getting water for regular cleaning is expensive if not practicable (Every day).

Certainly a study on the effect of sand particles when they strike the solar panels and their effect on the solar panel and subsequent efficiency reduction should be carried out as the life of the solar panel is about 20 years. Unlike Wind which is the oldest Renewable energy, solar is a few years old(on a massive scale) and as such reliability of solar panels under harsh conditions is a must.

Since India is having an ambitious Solar Energy Program, thorough research in increasing the efficiency and reliability of the systems is a must.

Reply to Anumakonda Jagadeesh by Anand Chitanand

Great article ! Dr. Jagadeesh, This was a great information. Thanks for sharing the details. Only my worry is that these plans should not remain on papers. Let us hope for the best.