India’s ample sunshine and wide open spaces seem to make it an ideal candidate for solar thermal installations. The country enjoys near-perfect conditions that could take advantage of solar thermal for residential and commercial space heat and hot water, along with process heat for industry. Yet solar thermal has gotten very little attention in that country thus far. That’s about to change, if the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) has anything to say about it.
The CSE recently released a report detailing current solar thermal capacity in India along with the potential of the technology if more businesses and property owners embraced it. The green energy body is now preparing to push solar thermal as aggressively as possible in order to increase adoption. We could learn some lessons from their efforts.
According to the report, “the installed capacity of CSP in India is a mere 200 MegaWatts (MW) while solar photovoltaics (PV) on the other hand have an installed capacity of almost 5,000 MW.” The report goes on to say that the three primary hindrances to solar thermal in India are a lack of awareness, a lack of expertise, and the cost of installation.
Lack of Awareness
Indian property owners are not at all concerned about the fact that they consume millions of tons of fossil fuels on things that could be just as easily powered through solar thermal. The CSE says this is due in large part to ignorance. Simply put, property owners do not know about the existence of solar thermal, let alone the benefits it offers. They say the first front in the fight to bring solar thermal to India is educating property owners about it.
Property owners need to know that solar thermal can deliver more than adequate space heat and hot water for both residential and commercial buildings. They need to know that solar thermal can be installed with a very manageable footprint on virtually any rooftop.
Lack of Expertise
The CSE says there is a measurable lack of expertise regarding solar thermal technology in India. They believe that in order to push the industry forward in their country, they need an influx of technical experts capable of developing the kinds of solutions property owners need. Until that expertise arrives, the CSE believes solar thermal will remain marginal as compared to other solar technologies.
Cost of Installation
The third and final hindrance to solar thermal is one that we are all aware of: the cost of installation. Even though solar thermal solutions pay for themselves in just a few years, the upfront costs of installation can be prohibitive to many property owners. North America and Europe have addressed this problem through government subsidies that encourage new installations. India will probably have to look at the subsidy paradigm as well.
Basic economic principles dictate that costs would come down in India as the adoption of solar thermal increases. Until that time, the entire industry may need to be anchored by substantial financial support from the government.
So what can we learn here in the U.S.? First, we also need to do a better job of educating property owners here about solar thermal. Most people think only of photovoltaic systems when they think solar; they have no idea that there are other ways to use energy from the sun. Or, if they are aware of solar thermal, they are not aware of new technology that makes it a very viable renewable energy option.
Second, we do need to keep our subsidy programs intact rather than reducing funding or cutting programs entirely. Incentives are important in promoting the widespread adoption of solar thermal. We cannot afford to lose them if we expect solar thermal to help reduce fossil fuel consumption.
- The Economic Times – http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2016-02-04/news/70343933_1_cse-power-generation-fuel-oil