Harvard Scientist: India headed for a green energy revolution

Jan 22, 2017 0

By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata– Harvard chemist and energy innovator Daniel G. Nocera is a man on a “renewable” mission. The inventor of the artificial leaf and co-creator of its bionic version plans to launch a pilot of the advanced technology in India with the assertion that a “renewable energy revolution will take place” in the country.

“I have no doubt about it. The revolution in renewable energy will happen in India. When you look at places in the developed world like the US, you are looking backwards, meaning that’s what it used to be like (coal, oil and gas) and the emerging countries have a decision to take: Do they want to build something looking back or do they want to do something different,” Nocera told IANS in an interview here on the sidelines of SABIC (Symposium on Advanced Biological Inorganic Chemistry) 2017.

Daniel G. Nocera

Nocera, currently the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, invented the artificial leaf which used solar power to split water and make hydrogen fuel.

Because society isn’t set up to use hydrogen, to circumvent the problem of storing and using hydrogen, he and his team went one step further with the bionic leaf. They made liquid fuel.

The bionic leaf turns sunlight into liquid fuel. It uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to generate the fuel. The system churns out energy 10 times more efficiently than natural photosynthesis. Nocera collaborated with Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School for the bionic version.

Now, the 59-year-old intends to set up a formal collaboration with the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Mumbai and supply some of the science and the engineered bacteria to the scientists to take the technology forward.

“I want to start anything that goes for the commercialisation of the bionic leaf, for instance. I want do it in India. I am not doing it with American companies. Because ICT has such great chemical engineers I am hoping we can do it. I want to start a pilot project. We already have a MoU in place (Harvard with ICT) but we haven’t worked out the details of the project. We will do it now,” Nocera asserted.

The USP of the technology, which relies on unique catalysts that are biocompatible, is that it allows the use of any kind of water, even dirty water.

“You could imagine anybody with an artificial leaf. If you have sunlight you can use any water source. It doesn’t have to be pure water. It is totally distributed. It can use dirty water and sunlight; it’s the way to distribute fuel production,” explained Nocera, who pitched his technology as being for the poor.

But will it be cheap enough?

“It’s cheap enough, but it’s not cheap enough to use now because nobody is going to invent anything that is cheaper than coal, oil or gas. Nothing is ever going to be cheap enough. That’s a bogus argument, in my opinion. The only way to make it cheap enough is to put new policies in place which scientists don’t do. They don’t like to work with policy people. I work with them,” he averred.

Nocera has given almost a hundred invited talks on the artificial system (that resembles a sleek modern-day smartphone) and has received his fair share of criticism as well for what has been called his “radical” approach. But he remains unmoved, maintaining whenever one does things differently, one is criticised.

“We used silicon in the artificial leaf which absorbs light and separates the charge. The catalysts get energised by that and splits the water. It was extremely hard. For 40 years, people were trying to make a single magic material that absorbs the light, separates the charge and does the catalysis. Our system has different components and that’s how photosynthesis works,” he elaborated.

Nocera, as the co-founder of the Sun Catalytix start-up (from where the hydrogen/artificial leaf story began in 2009) had also started working with the Tata group in India on hydrogen as a fuel. However, due to the lack of infrastructure to use hydrogen, his company turned to developing a flow battery to store the power and plug it into the grid. Lockheed Martin acquired the start-up in 2014.

Envisioning a future where households will have rooftop bionic systems, Nocera believed it’s a tough call for India — which has a 100 GW solar power target for 2022 — to continue using fossil fuels to keep the economy growing or to set up a whole new infrastructure for renewables.

“I am hoping (India can achieve it). You have to really understand the pressure politicians are under: Everybody in India also wants his economy to grow. So do I put in a whole new infrastructure for renewable energy or do I just keep using fossil fuels to keep the economy growing,” he wondered. (IANS)

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India launches online training program for solar PV design

Dec 15, 2016 0

New Delhi– The New and Renewable Energy Ministry has developed an online training programe under public-private partnership for design, installation and maintenance of solar photovoltaics (PV) to meet the manpower requirements of the booming solar industry, an official statement said on Thursday.

The skilling online programme has been developed by the National Institute of Wind Energy under in association with Iacharya Silicon Ltd, Chennai, the statement said.

Triton Solar panel

Triton Solar panel

The course is currently being offered in Hindi and English and is priced at Rs 599, it said.

The programme is designed as a two-week course and covers various aspects of solar PV feasibility studies, basics of design, installation, operation and maintenance of solar power plants, it added.

The course will be delivered online in a combination of lecture, Powerpoint, multimedia and video formats, including design exercises, case studies and virtual onsite installation videos.

India has launched an ambitious programme of installing 100 gigawatt of solar power by 2022.

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India needs 12 billion euros to migrate to green technology

Sep 27, 2016 0

New Delhi– It would cost India 12 billion euros to shift from hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs), used as refrigerants, to the greener gases between 2015 and 2050, a research has said.

The research released by New Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) was on Monday also discussed in a meeting here on the alternatives of HFCs and other super greenhouse gases. Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave chaired the meeting.

This high cost, which is estimated to be 33-34 billion euros for North America, European Union, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and others, is supposed to be a road block ahead of the negotiations for the next Montreal Protocol meeting scheduled between October 8 and 14 at Kigali, Rwanda.

“The cumulative mitigation cost in the Indian proposal is almost 12 billion euros, which is much less compared to the other proposals (EU, NA, SIDS and Intermediate proposals),” the research said.

Noting that “more mitigation is more costly”, the research said this additional economic burden is, however, imperative for achieving higher environmental benefit.

The research adds that given the continued strong increase in demand, the release of HFCs is expected to increase manifold until 2050.

“The majority of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems produced and marketed in India today use HCFC-22, which is an Ozone Depleting Substance (ODS) and scheduled for phase-out,” the report said, adding that the cumulative mitigation achieved in the Indian proposal is also lower.

Meanwhile, the Union Environment Ministry on Monday held a discussion with the stakeholders across industry groups on the challenges faced by India in phasing down HFCs.

Speaking of the Montreal Protocol, Minster Anil Madhav Dave said: “India would seek an equitable agreement in Kigali that is in the best interests of the nation, its people, as well as the larger global community.”

Speaking of the research pointing high cost for mitigation, the Environment Ministry said that India at Kigali meeting in October must remind the donor countries of their “commitment” and that “this assurance is necessary to fulfil any commitments India makes”.

“There are different estimates as to what it will cost to make the switch. The debate is not on what needs to be done, but on how to do it. A fine balance has to be achieved between national interests and environmental concerns,” R.R. Rashmi, Additional Secretary in the Union Environment Ministry, said at the meeting.

Experts suggested that India should assert (at Kigali) that funding from multilateral funds should be disbursed to developing countries as soon as possible, so that this technological transition can be achieved without any delay.

Montreal Protocol was designed to protect Ozone layer by reducing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances. It was agreed on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989.

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Indian Oil, US trade agency to jointly explore cleaner fuels

Sep 26, 2016 0

New Delhi– State-run oil marketer Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed an agreement to jointly explore cleaner fuels, IOC said on Monday.

“The USTDA awarded a grant to Indian Oil to analyse options for optimising its refining operations to produce cleaner fuels,” India’s largest refiner said in a release here.

Indian Oil and USTDA will analyse options for optimising its refining options to produce cleaner fuels, which will help the company improve efficiencies and reduce emissions at its refineries, as well as meet environmental standards, IOC said.

“The feasibility study will include market, technical, economic and financial analysis of advanced technologies in order to help Indian Oil identify solutions for converting refinery by-products into cleaner chemical products and/or fuels,” it said.

“This project follows Indian Oil’s participation in a USTDA reverse trade mission that brought Indian energy officials to the United States for meetings and site visits focused on refinery modernisation,” the statement added.

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Opening up Indian solar mission to foreign companies good idea

Sep 8, 2016 0
Helena Li, President (Asia, Pacific and Middle East) Trina Solar

Helena Li, President (Asia, Pacific and Middle East) Trina Solar

By Biswajit Choudhury

New Delhi– Rolling out the red carpet to foreign companies in joining India’s 100-GW solar mission is a smart move, as it can cut costs and bring cutting-edge technology, says Helena Li, President of China’s Trina Solar, which has 20 per cent share in India’s solar panels’ market.

“Indian local manufacturing capacity is not developed enough to be as cost-competitive as China’s, for instance. So the Indian government’s push for solar power and its strategy to invite foreign companies to build the industry locally is a smart move,” Li, who oversees Trina’s Asia, Pacific and Middle East business, told IANS in an interview here.

Trina Solar, established in China in 1997, and listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2006, is a global leader that has installed 19 gigawatt (GW) of photovoltaic modules worldwide.

In India, Trina, which, Li said, in Chinese signifies bringing together nature and humans in a harmonious way, has already sold 1.5 GW of solar PVs and will have done business of 2 GW by the end of the year. Total solar panels capacity installed in India is around 8 GW.

Trina’s clients in India include energy majors like Wellspun, Hero Future Energies, ACME and Renew Power. It has, in 2014, supplied 600,000 solar panels for India’s largest solar project of 151 megawatt at Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh.

With the Narendra Modi government’s major thrust on renewables — that resulted in the formation of the International Solar Alliance this year with its secretariat in Gurgaon — private players are entering the solar space in a big way.

“If Trina wants to grow in the Indian market, it has to produce in India. But the cost-effectiveness of producing in India is a major consideration,” she says.

Towards this end, Trina has recently signed an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government for acquiring 90 acres of land to set up a production facility and has also identified the site. However, still lacking manufacturing of scale in the sector costs in India remain high, Li said.

“Although India wants local content, 90 per cent of India’s panels are imported. Indian manufacturers have to depend on accessories from China. Currently, most panels in India are Chinese manufactured,” she said.

“By manufacturing here, we can help to grow India’s market by bringing in the supply chain from China,” Li added.

This situation, however, has provoked measures to protect and encourage local industry through the domestic content requirement clause under India’s national solar programme, launched in 2010.

It mandates that a solar power producer compulsorily source a certain percentage of solar cells and modules from local manufacturers in order to be able to benefit from the government guarantee to purchase the energy produced.

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel ruled earlier this year that India’s domestic content requirement for the solar sector is inconsistent with its treaty obligations. The US had, in 2013, brought a complaint against India before the WTO, alleging violation of global trading rules.

Ironically, America and the European Union themselves have taken anti-dumping measures against cheaper Chinese solar panels in order to protect their own industries, Li pointed out.

India expects to add around 5.5 GW of solar capacity in 2016, making it the fourth-largest solar market globally.

While several major solar manufacturers have announced plans to expand production capacities this year, Chinese demand has slowed, resulting in a softening of module prices.

On the other hand, a recent report by global accounting firm KPMG says that in the absence of strong local manufacturing, India will need to import $42 billion of solar equipment by 2030, corresponding to 100 GW of installed capacity.

However, cheaper Chinese imports have provoked industry bodies like the Indian Solar Manufacturers’ Association to demand safeguard levies and anti-dumping duties.

It is in this context that Li lauds the current Indian government’s attempts to encourage global majors like Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Hanwha Solar and First Solar to consider joint ventures to build module manufacturing in India, with appropriate concessions and incentives.

Trina has been a pioneer in India’s solar panels market since coming into the country five years ago, said Li, whose association with India dates back to 2000 when she was representing Microsoft.

“At that time, there were only a few companies here in solar,” she recalls, adding that India has from the beginning been a good market.

“Now it is a booming market, other Chinese companies are coming in. But Trina has been rooted in India from the beginning. We have all local employees in our office here. One needs to nurture the market, spend a lot of time with clients, which explains our leading market presence here,” she signed off. (IANS)

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Haryana to ban diesel engines over 10 years old

Jul 21, 2016 0

Chandigarh– The Haryana government announced on Thursday that the it has decided to ban diesel vehicles that are over 10 years old and petrol vehicles over 15 years old in the areas of National Capital Region (NCR) falling in the state.

Haryana Transport Minister Krishan Lal Panwar told media here that it has been decided to strictly implement the recent orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had banned old vehicles from plying in national capital New Delhi.

Panwar said that instructions to this effect have been issued to officers concerned.

Haryana surrounds Delhi from three sides with Gurgaon, Faridabad, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat districts adjoining the national capital.

Other districts of Haryana which are included in the NCR are Panipat, Karnal and Jind.

Dubbing diesel as a “major cause of pollution”, the NGT on Monday ordered that all diesel vehicles that are 10 years old or more be banned from plying in the national capital with immediate effect.

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With 274 million households without electricity, replacing kerosene lanterns with solar-LEDs can spur jobs

Jul 20, 2016 0

New York–In addition to environmental benefits, shifting away from inefficient and polluting fuel-based lighting — such as candles, firewood, and kerosene lanterns — to solar-LED systems can spur economic development as well — to the tune of two million potential new jobs, a study says.

The researchers analysed how the transition from polluting fuel-based lighting to solar-LED lighting would impact employment and job creation.

“People like to talk about making jobs with solar energy, but it’s rare that the flip side of the question is asked — how many people will lose jobs who are selling the fuels that solar will replace,” said researcher Evan Mills from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

“We set out to quantify the net job creation. The good news is, we found that we will see many more jobs created than we lose,” Mills noted.

The findings were published in the journal Energy for Sustainable Development.

There are about 274 million households worldwide that lack access to electricity.

But Mills’ study focused on the “poorest of the poor”, or about 112 million households, largely in Africa and Asia, that cannot afford even a mini solar home system, which might power a fan, a few lights, a phone charger, and a small TV.

Mills found that fuel-based lighting today provides 150,000 jobs worldwide.

Because there is very little data in this area, his analysis is based on estimating the employment intensity of specific markets and applying it to the broader non-electrified population. He also drew on field observations in several countries to validate his estimates.

He did a similar analysis for the emerging solar-LED industry and found that every one million of these lanterns provides an estimated 17,000 jobs.

These values include employees of these companies based in developing countries but exclude upstream jobs in primary manufacturing by third parties such as those in factories in China.

Assuming a three-year product life and a target of three lanterns per household, this corresponded to about two million jobs globally, more than compensating for the 150,000 jobs that would be lost in the fuel-based lighting marke, the study said.

Furthermore, Mills’ research found that the quality of the jobs would be much improved.

“With fuel-based lighting a lot of these people are involved in the black market and smuggling kerosene over international borders, and child labour is often involved in selling the fuel,” he said.

“These new solar jobs will be much better jobs — they’re legal, healthy, and more stable and regular,” he added.

The new jobs span the gamut, from designing and manufacturing products to marketing and distributing them.

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India on right track to meet solar energy target

Jul 15, 2016 0

Kolkata– The Union government is on the right track to meet the target of generating one lakh MW of solar power by 2022 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), a top official said on Friday.

“We are on the right track. As on March 2016, solar installation stood at 6,700 MW. At present it is around 7,700 MW. Cumulative capacity of 17,000 MW is expected by March 2017. From the 2017-18 onwards, we need to add 15,000 MW each year,” Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor told IANS.

Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor

Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor

Around 20,000 MW of solar capacity is in the pipeline, out of that around 14,000 MW of capacity is being installed, he said on the sidelines of an event organised by CII.

Kapoor sounded optimistic about the sustainability and viability of projects when solar tariff emerging out of reverse bidding process has been falling.

Solar tariffs fell to 4.34 a kWhr, which is the lowest as of now. Fortum Finnsurya Energy quoted that tariff to bag mandate to set up a 70 MW solar plant under NTPC’s Bhadla Solar Park tender.

“Tariff has been varying across locations. Developers have their own calculations to make projects viable and sustainable. Low tariffs are coming from various tenders. It is not that tariff falls for only one occasion,” Kapoor said.

Citing a recent bidding for 130 MW of solar projects in Rajasthan, he said: “There are 13 projects, each has the capacity of 10 MW. In that case, tariff falls to 4.35 a kWhr.”

He said if developers failed to execute projects, the bank guarantee of Rs 20 lakh per MW given by the developers will be forfeited and the Centre will re-tender the particular project.

With most of the solar projects concentrated in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, the government, to incentivise pan-India presence of solar projects, is offering viability gap funding for projects in the states where solar penetration is relatively low.

“We are offering viability gap funding to bring down the tariff to Rs 4.50 a kWhr,” he said.

“For West Bengal, I will meet the state officials so that projects could come here and we will offer viability gap funding,” he said. (IANS)

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Focused on expanding green transmission corridor, says Goyal

Jul 15, 2016 0

Chennai–Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said expanding the Green Corridor (a power transmission corridor for renewable power) is the central government mission and the per unit cost of solar power is now comparable with that of traditional power sources.

Queried about Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa’s request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for dedicated transmission capacity for wind power, Goyal said: “Expanding the Green Corridor is the mission of our government.”

Recently Jayalalithaa had written to Modi to direct Power Grid Corporation to allocate dedicated transmission capacity to evacuate surplus wind power from the state. She had stressed the importance setting up a dedicated inter-State Green Energy Corridor so that the surplus wind energy from Tamil Nadu can be successfully evacuated and sold to other States.

Goyal, who also handles the coal, new and renewable energy portfolios independently, said he had fruitful discussions with the Karnataka government on expanding the transmission capacity in South India.

He said that the Narendra Modi government has brought the cost of solar power to around Rs 4 per unit which is at par with that of other traditional sources of power, and the days when renewable power was unviable are gone.

On the Amnesty International’s charge of human rights violations by Coal India Ltd, he said the charges are baseless and motivated by vested interests that do not want India to progress.

Earlier at a function in Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM), Goyal said over the next three years no Indian home will be without power throughout the day.

Referring to his father who studied under street lights, he said no Indian child should be forced to read under poor lighting.

He also inauguratged the innovative solar-DC products and appliances developed by IITM and its incubated renewable energy companies. (IANS)

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Corporate funding to solar sector dips to $1.7 bn in April-June

Jul 11, 2016 0

Kolkata–Global consulting firm Mercom Capital Group on Monday said total corporate funding, including venture capital funding, public market and debt financing into the solar sector fell to $1.7 billion in April-June quarter, a 41 percent drop compared to the $2.8 billion raised in January-March period.

Year-over-year total corporate funding was down significantly compared to $5.9 billion in the second quarter of last year, the firm said.

Triton Solar panel

Triton Solar panel

“The solar industry continues to experience weakness in terms of financing activity and corporate funding in April-June, 2016 was at its lowest level in three years,” said Group’s CEO and co-founder Raj Prabhu.

Global solar venture capital funding (including private equity) saw a large decline in the quarter under review with $174 million in 16 deals compared to $406 million in 23 deals in January-March period.

According to the firm, solar downstream companies raised the most (64 percent) VC funding in April-June 2016 with $112 million in seven deals.

Solar public market financing in April-June came to $179 million in four deals compared to $94 million in four deals in the first quarter of calendar year 2016 and $2.3 billion in 12 deals in April-June period last year, the report said.

The firm said the announced debt financing came to $1.3 billion in 12 deals in April-June period compared to $3.4 billion in 14 deals in the corresponding period last year. (IANS)

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