“Moving to a low carbon economy by RE is only feasible if we have an energy storage solution”

April 1, 2015 9:02 am0 commentsViews: 64

K(01_2015_Moving-to-a-low)1Says Manoj Kumar Upadhyay, Founder & Chairman, ACME Group, in conversation with R Srinivasan.

Keeping in mind the disruptive attempt to create CSP towers perhaps for the first time in Asia by investing $30 mm in e-solar along with Google and Idea lab, what was the learning from this journey especially for efficient energy storage?
The investment in CSP technology was with an intention to create renewable energy generation using commodities and items like steel, glass and India’s core strength of software and electro-mechanical component. This technology was one of the first few modules of tower technology working on direct steam generation. The idea was to start with direct steam generation and move towards higher temperature and pressure by using molten salt as storage. In fact eSolar did the programme with Department of Energy (DoE), USA to design molten salt base system which was successfully completed. So the learning is that energy storage is possible and feasible.

Storage can be achieved using thermal storage technology or new generation of Li-Ion based storage solution which can cater from kWh to MWh.

ACME had a strategic agreement with Samsung SDI to manufacture and market lithium ion batteries in solar power in India and the African continent. Are there any policies abroad that would lend impetus to the Indian power sector? Globally it has been recognised that moving to a low carbon economy by renewable energy is only feasible if we have an energy storage solution. In fact implementing smart grid would also need to create a proper storage solution to manage demand side of energy. Countries like Germany, Japan, USA, South Korea and Italy are heavily incentivising on storage and they have made their policy. We believe this kind of initiative will scale up to reduce the cost and popularise it among people and utilities. We are in discussion with regulatory bodies in India and we understand that they are working on an energy storage policy.

What would you suggest since: Locally available glass will lower costs of solar power and bring down the overall cost and inverters are imported even though locally made systems would reduce costs.
Indigenisation will certainly help in lowering the project cost in case we are able to maintain the quality standards offered by the world’s top suppliers.

Most of the large-scale inverters are manufactured locally. We are making sure that we procure inverters and balance of plant from Indian suppliers only. In fact, we are persuading all our major suppliers to align with the “Make in India” vision and start producing items locally.

In view of your work with ethanol, what is the potential for biofuels and what are the deterrents to its growth in India?
New technology replaces the traditional ethanol reflux column system with a solid-state distillation technology, making it possible for home-owners and small businesses to safely and cost-effectively create their own fuel, on-site. Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, but when used as a fuel it has been de-natured so as to make it unsuitable for human consumption.

As a fuel, it is a biofuel alternative to gasoline, and is widely used in cars in Brazil among other places. Because it is easy to manufacture and process, and can be made from very common materials such as sugarcane, it is steadily becoming a promising alternative to gasoline throughout the world.

We have introduced the portable ethanol-producing device in India a few years back. However, we couldn’t take it on a mass scale because of limitations in regulatory framework. The cumbersome process of taking permits and approvals has become a major deterrent in the commercial success of
the product.

K(01_2015_Moving-to-a-low)2Comment on the company’s journey in scaling up to 502.5 MW.
In fact we are way ahead of the 500 mark. We started our first solar photovoltaic power plant in 2012 which is a key learning; being one of the best solar plants in the region. At the start, the tariff of solar power was nearing Rs 15 per unit; this was quite difficult as that was our first project and cost economics were different but the support and zeal of the Gujarat government and our unending efforts enabled us to commission the project on scheduled time. Thereafter, Madhya Pradesh is another bigger project of 25 MW, and won 100 MW under JNNSM Phase II Batch I, which is history in the solar industry as we won maximum allocable capacity of 100 MW in the bid. Further, we proudly say our strike rate is one of the higher among the bidders in the country.

Since the government plans to build 100 GW of solar by 2022, what measures would you suggest to overcome hurdles in this endeavour?
The government has certainly taken the timely and right decision in promoting renewable energy power projects. Almost every state in India is now coming up with huge size competitive biddings for development of solar power. This is quite good for the entire nation to go green and efforts of state and central government are commendable. The following measures will help overcome hurdles in this endeavour:
• Provision of large chunks of leased land for development of solar power;
• Feed-in-tariff instead of reverse bidding to motivate players
• Facilitation for power evacuation
• Support to enhance domestic manufacturing capabilities to meet domestic content requirement
• Differentiation of Accelerated Depreciation (AD) and non-accelerated depreciation players especially for competitive bidding where AD players are taking an additional benefit at the cost of the central government.

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