Vibrant Gujarat: High on solar energy

Clean technology MoUs, covering a wide range of manufacturing and consulting activity, stole the limelight at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit this year

Published: Jan 24, 2015
Vibrant Gujarat: High on solar energy
Image: Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
A bulk of the renewable energy MoUs signed at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit had to do with solar power

Climate change and clean energy ventures took centre stage at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit this year, almost nudging out traditional industry segments that have made the state the chemical hub of India. Dozens of MoUs signed this year were in the cleantech arena and spanned a range of manufacturing and consulting activity. Some of these were big-ticket investments of global scale which, if fructified, could help India leapfrog into the clean energy game.

In its seventh edition this year, Vibrant Gujarat has been favoured by India Inc as a stage for big investment announcements.

Suzlon Group chairman Tulsi Tanti, who has been attending the event for several years, told Forbes India, “It wasn’t just the entrepreneurs, climate change was also being discussed and highlighted by almost every high-profile speaker—from the prime minister, UN secretary general, US secretary of state to the prime minister of Bhutan. There is huge attention from policymakers and this is very encouraging.”

A bulk of the renewable energy MoUs signed had to do with solar power. Not surprising, considering that the new BJP government has revised the target for India’s solar power generation to 100,000 MW by 2022. A slew of incentives, including subsidies, are being considered to help achieve this and may be announced soon, sources in the MNRE (ministry of new and renewable energy) say.

Gautam Adani, group chairman of the Adani Group, signed a deal with the US-based SunEdison to build the largest vertically integrated solar cell manufacturing facility in the world. The new factory, to be built with an investment of Rs 25,000 crore, will have a production capacity of 7.5 GW per year. It will make key ingredients for solar panels.

Adani’s ambitious pitch can be understood in comparison with existing leaders in the global PV (photovoltaic) business. Chinese company Trina Solar is the largest solar panel maker in the world today. It has an annual production capacity of about 3.8 GW, while the second largest company, First Solar Inc, has a total capacity of 2.4 GW (as of September 2014). “The facility will create enough solar panels to fuel substantial solar growth in India,” Adani Power chief executive Vineet S Jain said. It is expected to start production in the next three to four years.

Ironically, even as the Adani Group pitches itself as a global leader in power generation from renewables, it is battling heavy criticism from NGOs for giving the environment a short shrift at its projects in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Speaking on the potential of PV manufacturing in India, Dr Tobias Engelmeier, founder of Bridge To India, a solar consulting firm based in India and Germany, says, “The global market for photovoltaic cells collapsed two years ago due to oversupply. But it is beginning to pick up now because of consolidation among the manufacturers and improved margins.’’  Many solar industry experts are of the opinion that the real fillip for solar power in India will come from its retail adoption through rooftop generation. Engelmeier says there is currently a big gap in this as individual customers are not comfortable buying solar equipment.

Vibrant Gujarat: High on solar energy
Image: Kedar Bhat for Forbes India
Suzlon Group chairman Tulsi Tanti


Independent power producer Inderpreet Wadhwa, founder of Azure Power, is among those wanting to tap the rooftop opportunity. The company signed an MoU at Vibrant Gujarat to launch a national certification programme for rooftop solar photovoltaic installers.  The programme is aimed at developing workers skilled in solar PV, engineering, construction and operations.

The other big announcement in renewable power at the event was by Delhi-based Welspun Renewables. The company, which is already a large solar power developer, committed to set up 500 MW wind power and 600 MW solar power capacities in Gujarat. The 1 GW project, in partnership with Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam, will have an investment of Rs 8,300 crore, the company said. Solar power generation is still about 40 percent more expensive than wind power. Developers also need much larger parcels of land than for wind power generation.

Tanti’s response to this is to develop a ‘hybrid’ model—one that generates wind and solar power in the same facility. Tanti has expressed intent to develop up to 3 GW of such power in Gujarat. “Our plan is to develop IPPs (independent power projects) around industrial clusters—say in the textile, auto ancillary or food processing industries,’’ he says. He has already done this for wind power, at clusters like Tirupur, where about 400 mill owners receive electricity from their own windmill.

Suzlon now plans to replicate this in Surat and Dholera (in Gujarat) and at industrial locations in other states, with one big difference—he will also put up solar PV panels in the facility. “The SMEs will not be able to afford the solar equipment, so the solar power will only be sold to the grid. The idea is to increase the overall efficiency. The power evacuation facility is common, and will be better used. And so will the people operating and maintaining the equipment over the years,’’ he says.

The Narendra Modi government’s fresh focus on renewables could well be a lifeline for Suzlon as developers look to buy wind power equipment. Apart from equipment sale to other developers, the company is looking at adding capacity as a power generator and developer. Tanti is trying to script a turnaround of the wind-turbine maker, which is straddled with a debt of Rs 17,320 crore (as of September 2014). A major chunk of the de-leveraging is expected to come from the part-sale of its German subsidiary Senvion SE. But India’s first global wind power entrepreneur is also buttressing its presence in the home market. “Solar has momentum today,’’ says Tanti. “We expect to add 200 MW of hybrid capacity in four states by March 2016.’’

So, even as falling oil prices have taken the wind out of the sails of renewable energy investments globally, India seems to be bucking the trend and marching towards a greener future. The government is pushing for 10 GW of new renewable power capacity every year. If the queue of entrepreneurs at Vibrant Gujarat is any indicator, we might get there soon.

(This story appears in the 06 February, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Dr.a.jagadeesh

    Glad to know this. But more than solar,Wind and Biofuel/biogas power besides biochar has great promise in India. One area where there can be co-operation between India and US is Biofuel: The United States produces mainly biodiesel and ethanol fuel, which uses corn as the main feedstock. Since 2005 the US overtook Brazil as the world\'s largest ethanol producer. In 2006 the US produced 4.855 billion US gallons (18.38106 m3) of ethanol. The United States, together with Brazil accounted for 70 percent of all ethanol production, with total world production of 13.5 billion US gallons (51106 m3) (40 million metric tons). When accounting just for fuel ethanol production in 2007, the U.S. and Brazil are responsible for 88% of the 13.1 billion US gallons (50106 m3) total world production. Biodiesel is commercially available in most oilseed-producing states. As of 2005, it was somewhat more expensive than fossil diesel, though it is still commonly produced in relatively small quantities (in comparison to petroleum products and ethanol fuel). Due to increasing pollution control and climate change requirements and tax relief, the U.S. market is expected to grow to 1 to 2 billion US gallons (3.8106 to 7.6106 m3) by 2010. Biofuels are mainly used mixed with fossil fuels. They are also used as additives. The largest biodiesel consumer is the U.S. Army. Most light vehicles on the road today in the US can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends. The demand for bioethanol fuel in the United States was stimulated by the discovery in the late 90s that methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), anoxygenate additive in gasoline, was contaminating groundwater. Cellulosic biofuels are under development, to avoid upward pressure on food prices and land use changes that would be expected to result from a major increase in use of food biofuels. Biofuels are not just limited to liquid fuels. One of the often overlooked uses of biomass in the United States is in thegasification of biomass. There is a small, but growing number of people using woodgas to fuel cars and trucks all across America. The challenge is to expand the market for biofuels beyond the farm states where they have been most popular to date. Flex-fuel vehicles are assisting in this transition because they allow drivers to choose different fuels based on price and availability. It should also be noted that the growing ethanol and biodiesel industries are providing jobs in plant construction, operations, and maintenance, mostly in rural communities. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry created almost 154,000 U.S. jobs in 2005 alone, boosting household income by $5.7 billion. It also contributed about $3.5 billion intax revenues at the local, state, and federal levels. On the other hand, in 2010, the industry received $6.646 billion in federal support (not counting state and local support). Based upon average U.S. corn yields for the years 2007 through 2012, conversion of the entire US corn crop would yield 34.4 billion gallons of ethanol which is approximately 25% of 2012 finished motor fuel demand. US has expertise in Biofuel. In the debate Food Vs Fuel,there are alternatives. India can be world leader in Biofuel/Biogas for power. There are care-free growth,regenerative and CAM plants like Agave and Opuntia which are ideal for Biofuel/biogas for power production besides Biochar. These can be raised in millions of hectares of waste land in India . One more advantage is both of these plants act as Carbon Sink. Mexico is already doing this. Agave tequilana weber can yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre per year and from 12,000-18,000 gallons per acre per year if their cellulose is included, some 14 dry tons of feedstock per acre every year. These figures far outshine the plants that are dominating ethanol and bio fuels R&D and investment today, not only in terms of potential ethanol yield per acre, but also in terms of energy balance (the ratio of energy in the product to the energy input to produce it), as well as actual and prospective planted acreage. Corn ethanol, for example, has an energy balance ratio of 1.3 and produces approximately 300-400 gallons of ethanol per acre. Soybean bio diesel with an energy balance of 2.5, typically can yield 60 gallons of bio diesel per acre while an acre of sugar cane can produce 600-800 gallons of ethanol with an energy balance of 8.0. An acre of poplar trees can yield more than 1,500 gallons of cellulosic ethanol with an energy balance of 12.0, according to a National Geographic study published in October 2007. According to Arturo Velez, Agave Expert: \"On an annualized basis agave produces 3X more distilled ethanol than sugar cane in Brasil; 6X more distilled ethanol than yellow corn in the US; at least 3X more cellulosic ethanol than switchgrass or poplar tree. Producing one gallon of distilled ethanol from agave costs at the most half the cost of one gallon from sugar cane and one fourth of corn\'s production cost. One hectare of Agave captures at least 5X more CO2 than one hectare of the fastest growing Eucalyptus on a high density plantation and in one single year agave produces the same cellulose pulp Eucalyptus produces in 5 years\".. CAM species such as Agave show considerable promise as a biofuel crop for the future due to their high water-use efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress (e.g., drought and high temperatures), and potential for high biomass production on marginal lands . The optimal use of water to grow a selected feedstock is of critical importance because water scarcity, more than any other factor, determines whether land is suitable for growing food crops. Thus, growing plants with high water-use efficiency on land that is too dry to grow food crops is a potentially powerful strategy for producing biomass feed stocks in large amounts while minimizing competition with the food supply. Additionally, making productive use of semi-arid land can have positive effects on poor rural areas. The water-use efficiency (WUE) value (grams CO2 fixed/kilogram water transpired) varies markedly among plants with different types of photosynthetic metabolism. C3 plants typically have WUE values of 1%u20133; C4 plants, between 2 and 5; whereas crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants have values between 10 and 40. Therefore, CAM plants can be cultivated in arid or semi-arid land normally unsuitable for the cultivation of most C3 and C4 crops. It is exceedingly unlikely that a C3 or C4 plant could be developed, with or without genetic modification, with water-use efficiency approaching that of CAM plants.Moreover, CAM plants are native to essentially every state in the USA except Alaska, although they are prominent parts of ecosystems only in the Southwest. In spite of this potential, CAM plants have received much less systematic study or development as energy crops relative to inherently less water-efficient plants such as corn (maize), sugarcane, switch grass Miscanthus, poplar, sugar beets, Jatropha, soy, and canola. Cellulose content is far more in Agave Americana compared to Deciduous Wood,sugarcane,wheat straw,corn stover and switch grass while lignin content is far less in Agave Americana as compared to the others mentioned. A group of Mexican researchers believe they\'ve discovered what they call the \"missing energy crop,\" and though it hasn\'t exactly been missing-it grows abundantly in Mexico and in some southern U.S. and South American locations-these scientists claim agave possesses characteristics superior to other feedstocks currently being examined for biofuel purposes, such as cellulosic ethanol production. Agave is arguably one of the most significant plants in Mexican culture. It has a rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each of which usually end in a sharp point with a spiny margin, and is commonly mistaken for cacti. President Barack Obama\'s Plan to tackle Climate Change includes,\" The US will increase its research and development of bio ethanol as fuel. I believe biomass and ethanol are a part of the solution and belong in the green transition. Yet bio fuels and ethanol are many things. Not all are green and not all are sustainable in the broadest sense. For bio ethanol to belong in the green economy it has to deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings and avoid negative impact on food prices. Only then will it be good business for farmers and good for the climate. The technology is available and ready to be scaled up. Second generation bio ethanol is an emerging market with the potential to reduce 85 pct. of CO2 emission compared to regular fossil fuels in transportation. It is also a local resource increasing energy independence and creating local jobs in agriculture, factories and logistics.\". It is most welcome. Hitherto Corn and Sugarcane are used in the biofuel production. In the debate on FOOD Vs FUEL, it is necessary to find alternatives. \"Agave has a huge advantage, as it can grow in marginal or desert land, not on arable land,\" and therefore would not displace food crops, says Oliver Inderwildi, at the University of Oxford. The majority of ethanol produced in the world is still derived from food crops such as corn and sugarcane. Speculators have argued for years now that using such crops for fuel can drive up the price of food. Agave, however, can grow on hot dry land with a high-yield and low environmental impact. The researchers proposing the plant\'s use have modeled a facility in Jalisco, Mexico, which converts the high sugar content of the plant into ethanol. The research, published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, provides the first ever life-cycle analysis of the energy and greenhouse gas balance of producing ethanol with agave. Each megajoule of energy produced from the agave-to-ethanol process resulted in a net emission of 35 grams of carbon dioxide, far below the 85g/MJ estimated for corn ethanol production. Burning gasoline produces roughly 100g/MJ.\"The characteristics of the agave suit it well to bioenergy production, but also reveal its potential as a crop that is adaptable to future climate change,\" adds University of Oxford plant scientist Andrew Smith. \"In a world where arable land and water resources are increasingly scarce, these are key attributes in the food versus fuel argument, which is likely to intensify given the expected large-scale growth in biofuel production.\" Agave already appeared to be an interesting bio ethanol source due to its high sugar content and its swift growth. For the first time Researchers at the universities of Oxford and Sydney have now conducted the first life-cycle analysis of the energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of agave-derived ethanol and present their promising results in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. On both life cycle energy and GHG emissions agave scores at least as well as corn, switch grass and sugarcane, while reaching a similar ethanol output. The big advantages agave has over the before mentioned plants is that it can grow in dry areas and on poor soil, thus practically eliminating their competition with food crops and drastically decreasing their pressure on water resources. Plants which use crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which include the cacti and Agaves, are of particular interest since they can survive for many months without water and when water is available they use it with an efficiency that can be more than 10 times that of other plants, such as maize, sorghum, miscanthus and switchgrass. CAM species include no major current or potential food crops; they have however for centuries been cultivated for alcoholic beverages and low-lignin fibres. They may therefore also be ideal for producing biofuels on land unsuited for food production. In Mxico, there are active research programs and stakeholders investigating Agave spp. as a bioenergy feedstock. The unique physiology of this genus has been exploited historically for the sake of fibers and alcoholic beverages, and there is a wealth of knowledge in the country of Mxico about the life history, genetics, and cultivation of Agave. The State of Jalisco is the denomination of origin of Agave tequilana Weber var. azul, a cultivar primarily used for the production of tequila that has been widely researched to optimize yields. Other cultivars of Agave tequilana are grown throughout Mxico, along with the Agave fourcroydes Lem., or henequen, which is an important source of fiber that has traditionally been used for making ropes. The high sugar content of Agave tequilana may be valuable for liquid fuel production, while the high lignin content of Agave fourcroydes may be valuable for power generation through combustion. Along with Agave species described above, some other economically important species include A. salmiana, A. angustiana, A. americana, and A. sisalana. Agave sisalana is not produced in Mxico, but has been an important crop in regions of Africa and Australia. Information collected here could thus be relevant to semi-arid regions around the world. Agave is a CAM Plant. Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions in a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remains shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acidmalate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency. Agave and Opuntia are the best CAM Plants. Agave Competitive Advantages * Thrives on dry land/marginal land. Most efficient use of soil, water and light * Massive production. Year-around harvesting * Very high yields with very low or no inputs * Very high quality biomass and sugars * Very low cost of production. Not a commodity, so prices are not volatile * Very versatile: biofuels, byproducts, chemicals * World-wide geographical distribution * Enhanced varieties are ready. Agave can be grown in huge areas of waste lands in Developing countries like India. Another route of power production is biogas generation from Agave as well as Opuntia. Biogas power generators are commercially available. This way power can be generated at local level with local resources. Both agave and Opuntia are regenerative plants. In their research paper SARAH C. DAVIS et al conclude: \"Large areas of the tropics and subtropics are too arid or degraded to support food crops, but Agave species may be suitable for biofuel production in these regions. We review the potential of Agave species as biofuel feedstocks in the context of ecophysiology, agronomy, and land availability for this genus globally. Reported dry biomass yields of Agave spp., when annualized, range from 1 to 34Mg /ha/yr without irrigation, depending on species and location. Some of the most productive species have not yet been evaluated at a commercial scale. Approximately 0.6Mha of land previously used to grow Agave for coarse ?bers have fallen out of production, largely as a result of competition with synthetic ?bers. Theoretically, this crop area alone could provide 6.1 billion L of ethanol if Agave were reestablished as a bioenergy feedstock without causing indirect land use change. Almost one-?fth of the global land surface is semiarid, suggesting there may be large opportunities for expansion of Agave crops for feedstock, but more ?eld trials are needed to determine tolerance boundaries for different Agave species(The global potential for Agave as a biofuel feedstock, GCB Bioenergy (2011) 3, 68%u201378, doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2010.01077.x).\" Agave and Opuntia are the best choice to grow in waste and vacant lands in Asia,Africa and Latin America.The advantage with the plants is both are regenerative and thrive under harsh conditions. Another plant of great use is OPUNTIA for biofuel / biogas production. The cultivation of nopal((OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA), a type of cactus, is one of the most important in Mexico. According to Rodrigo Morales, Chilean engineer, Wayland biomass, installed on Mexican soil, \"allows you to generate inexhaustible clean energy.\" Through the production of biogas, it can serve as a raw material more efficiently, by example and by comparison with jatropha. Wayland Morales, head of Elqui Global Energy argues that \"an acre of cactus produces 43 200 m3 of biogas or the equivalent in energy terms to 25,000 liters of diesel.\" With the same land planted with jatropha, he says, it will produce 3,000 liters of biodiesel. Another of the peculiarities of the nopal is biogas which is the same molecule of natural gas, but its production does not require machines or devices of high complexity. Also, unlike natural gas, contains primarily methane (75%), carbon dioxide (24%) and other minor gases (1%), \"so it has advantages from the technical point of view since it has the same capacity heat but is cleaner, \"he says, and as sum datum its calorific value is 7,000 kcal/m3. Javier Snchez et al in their extensive study on Opuntia as potential input for bioethanol concluded: \"Prickly pear is a widely-known crop in the SE of Spain, where it is currently used for forage, fodder and fruit. Now it is being considered as a potential crop for bioethanol production from its whole biomass. In order to estimate the potential bioethanol production in the province of Almeria (SE-Spain) and the optimal location of bioethanol processing plants, a GIS analysis involving a predictive yield model of prickly pear biomass was undertaken following specific restriction criteria. According to this analysis, the total potential bioethanol production in Almeria would be up to 502,927.8 t dm%u2022year%u20131 from 100,616 ha maximum that could be cultivated with prickly pear, with a calculated yield ranging between 4.2 and 9.4 t dm%u2022ha%u20131%u2022year%u20131. An exclusive suitability analysis and a preferable suitability analysis based on the Analytic Hierarchy Process were performed in order to estimate the optimal location of the subsequent processing plants within Almeria\'s road network by a discrete location-allocation model.\"(Javier Snchez , Francisco Snchez , Mara Dolores Curt & Jess Fernndez (2012) Assessment of the bioethanol potential of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.) biomass obtained from regular crops in the province of Almeria (SE Spain), Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, 60:3, 301-318). In the developing countries like India which has vast waste land Opuntia can be grown along with Agave for Biofuel/Biogas and subsequent power generation. On the borders and in big gaps in Solar Farms,Agave and Opuntia can be raised for supplementary power. Vertical Axis Wind Turbines Rising sea levels and escalating pollution levels has generated worldwide interest and has given rise to new wind turbines designs. Wind turbines mainly are of two types: vertical axis(VAWT) and horizontal axis(HAWT). HAWT are the most common type of wind turbines built across the world. VAWT is a type of wind turbine which have two or three blades and in which the main rotor shaft runs vertically. They are however less frequently used as they are not as effective as HAWT. The main difference between the VAWT and HAWT is the position of blades. In HAWT, blades are on the top, spinning in the air and are most commonly seen while in VAWT, generator is mounted at the base of the tower and blades are wrapped around the shaft. The main advantage of VAWT over HAWT is it\'s insensitivity to wind turbines and therefore can be mounted closer to the ground making it effective for home and residential purpose. This is vital information for those looking to install HAWT in their home. Whether they are looking for turbines that will be ideal for when they\'re sleeping or entertaining guests, HAWT is the better choice. Vertical turbines spin on the vertical axis and comes in various shapes sizes and colors. It\'s movement is similar to a coin spinning on the edge. Here are some of the advantages of VAWT: 1. The turbine generator and gearbox can be placed lower to the ground making maintenance easier and lower the construction costs. 2. The main advantage of VAWT is it does not need to be pointed towards the wind to be effective. In other words, they can be used on the sites with high variable wind direction. 3. Since VAWT are mounted closer to the ground they are more bird friendly and down not destroy the wildlife. 4. VAWT quiet, efficient, economical and perfect for residential energy production, especially in urban environments. The most popular type of VAWT are: Darrieus Wind Turbine and Savonius Wind Turbine. Darrieus Wind Turbine Darrieus Wind Turbine are commonly known as an \"Eggbeater\" turbine. It was invented by Georges Darrieus in 1931. A Darrieus is a high speed, low torque machine suitable for generating alternating current (AC) electricity. Darrieus generally require manual push therefore some external power source to start turning as the starting torque is very low. Darrieus has two vertically oriented blades revolving around a vertical shaft. Savonius Wind Turbine A Savonius vertical-axis wind turbine is a slow rotating, high torque machine with two or more scoops and are used in high-reliability low-efficiency power turbines. Most wind turbines use lift generated by airfoil-shaped blades to drive a rotor, the Savonius uses drag and therefore cannot rotate faster than the approaching wind speed. Of late Combined Darrius and Savonius VAWT are available from 300W to 10 KW Size and enven higher. Multi storied buildings are on the rise even in Towns. Today it is all Apartment culture in Cities and Towns. For Example in Nellore(Andhra Pradesh),India there are thousands of high rise apartments(minimum5 storied). As such VAWT make sense as they work well because of height. I am planning to promote the VAWT up to 1 KW size for individual Apartment Use. Already HAWT of 600W are working satisfactorily. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    on Jan 29, 2015
    • L N Bhola

      Dr Jagdeesh, I am planning to establish a maize processing unit, with dry wet processing facilities, wish to have own inhouse captive power generation:can you advise, to go solar-wind or biofuel. Thanks Lnbhola2063@gmail.com

      on Jan 30, 2015
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