August 6, 2020

India Needs to Make Silicon for Solar Power

India’s target of producing 100,000 MW of solar energy by 2022 is faced with certain hurdles. The country does not have the technology to make silicon from sand. This is forcing it to import silica in large quantities. This was pointed out by Atomic Energy Commission’s chairman, Srikumar Banerjee.
The scientist pointed out that “As silicon is not produced in the country, we are totally import-dependent for it. Though we have plenty of sand as raw material, we don’t have the technology to process it into silicon wafers for solar cells or panels.” He stressed that solar power would lead to a reduction in carbon footprint in the longer run. He also said that energy produced from cells or panels was 20-25 percent of the installed capacity opposed to 80 percent from a nuclear plant. Mr Banerjee stressed that since the set up of solar plant is highly capital intensive due to import of silicon for panels or photovoltaic cells, the power is only complementary to nuclear or other forms of energy, which will include renewable as well as conventional.
India is a tropical country and receives abundant sunshine for nearly 10 months. To harness its energy and distributing it with minimal loss at source or during transmission is going to be difficult for its stakeholders with no ecosystem existing as of yet.
Banerjee also said that “Unlike nuclear, which is a concentrated form of energy, solar is a distributed form, enabling us to have a mix of different sources. Both complement as they emit very low carbon footprint. We can have any installed capacity but what determines its utility and value is the quantum of energy produced in units per hour. A 1,000 mw solar-based plant will not produce more than one-third of what a nuclear or thermal-based plant does per hour.”
Every energy form is faced with issues like environmental, economic, social and political that delay its execution and lead to cost escalation and shortfall. Banerjee also stated that India’s per capita electricity consumption is around 800 kilowatt per hour and nearly 25 percent of the population have no access to power. Whereas, the world’s per capita consumption of power is 2,600 kw per hour. India needs to produce four times the present output for meeting the energy requirement of our population.
India has limited facilities for manufacturing solar cells and panels and hence it depends on imports from China and other countries, including Germany.
Mr Banerjee said that although there is a lot of investment in producing energy from renewable solar and nuclear sources, India’s dependence on fossil fuels including coal and natural gas is going to continue. Although, India can reduce proportionately for checking carbon emission from thermal power units.
Solar Power via Rooftop Installations
The Indian government had increased its budget for sourcing solar energy from rooftop installations over the country on 30 December 2015. It was increased from Rs 600 crore to Rs 5,000 crore.
This increase in budget will allow utility providers to source power produced from rooftops solar systems via a grid over the next five years under the National Solar Mission. About 4,200 MW of solar rooftop systems are going to be set up over the next five years on residential, government, social and institutions sectors including hospitals and educational buildings.