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Challenges of roof-top Solar: Can we have make them more non-reflective ?


Every new idea faces some challenges. Those which can rise up to them quickly and even before they become problems are the ones which have a future. Many articles speak of some opposition to Solar Power plants. Some don’t want it to cover large expanse of land, while others find that it changes the scenery around their habitat, thus an eye-sore. Wind power too has faced similar problems.

India  has through its National Action Plan for Climate Change, brought about 8 missions of which 3  look at the direction of energy efficiency with scope for renewable. As the power plant through Solar, which is comparatively new in implementation, in India matures, so would the problems. And the problems it would face would be unique to it.

English: Solar One power plant in Mojave Deser...

Large solar-plant in India, would not face much problems as long  as they are  installed in low density, arid to semi arid regions, for now. Although it would be better for the investors to do the Environmental Impact Assessment and have back up plans for adaptation. And those  close to rural habitation, must also think of innovation in case pressure in land due to population density increase. Which is a definite possibility in India.

However, Roof-top solar; which in my opinion is the real game changer in the immediate future; would be facing issues which the Indian Solar industry has not yet perhaps anticipated . The problem would be from the potential hazard of glint & glare of reflected sunlight, especially in high-density Urban settings. ( even the large rural SPV plants would have the problem if directly under flight path of the air-force / aviation industry )  The sooner the manufacturers and all related stake-holders wise up to it the better it would be for all.

In my earlier article on OPEX Solar I have already started receiving tremendous response. Therefore, I am able to anticipate the issues which could come up first hand. Buildings in any city are of varying hight. Tall buildings overlooking clusters of row-houses or commercial centre like malls, cinema halls and even hospitals and schools. Typical settings where one can seek business in roof -top solar. More often than not, these roof installation would be of a fixed type south-facing system angled in accordance to the latitude of the city. The reason to make them face south is for receiving the maximum  sunlight as the sun traverses the sky from dawn to dusk. While this would ensure maximum power-generation, it would also generate maximum ire from the poor souls who would be occupying the buildings which would be bouncing the reflected sunlight. And the Indian summer, well to put it mildly is very bright indeed. Not only would it add to the glare, in-fact the reflected heat if intense could also damage PVC pipes and other materials, if preventive steps are not taken before hand.

So what are the precautions one must take to avoid this situation ? Some article have already covered this issue. However I am for the solution and not flagging the problem and leaving it there.  While solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight to convert it into electricity, most commercially available PV panels today lose about 4 percent of their potential power output due to light reflection from the front surface of the cover glass. Solutions are already on the way, with Honeywell launching the SOLARC anti-reflective coating in February 2011. SOLARC materials are based on advanced materials used in semiconductor manufacturing. They are transparent coatings that improve the light transmittance through the glass that covers photovoltaic, or PV, panels, thus increasing the PV module efficiency and power output. These coatings also significantly reduce glare from the glass, allowing the PV panel to better blend with its surroundings.

Here one needs, especially in India to educate the potential investor to be ready to invest a little more on the prevention and precautions with respect to glint & glare. Especially to avoid the opposition, the type I have posted as links through out this article. India, needs the power through SPV. It is the only way to reduce the carbon emission, which is sure to increase as the Country grows. And as all know, carbon emission is a politically loaded subjected. It can bring intense pain or relief in terms of international relations in the years to come.

Should we lose out on the potential of the Sun, which India has in abundance due to wrong application, it would be a tragedy for the Nation.

 

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Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships.


Most women & men have an emotional connect with the home they have lived as a child. In India families often live their entire life in one abode for generations. Even as India grows from its rural to more urban setting, the people still like to retain their “ancestral” home while moving into the swanky new home. There are some emotions which no one likes to part with; and childhood memories are perhaps the most important.

Perhaps many around the world  would share similar sentiments. Some want to make a retirement home, some would want a second home. Given a choice nearly every human would want to identify her/himself with something that is familiar.

This gives rise to a super Green Business Idea, which has manifold potential in rescuing Gaia from Global Warming.What if, future towns and cities are made as replicas ? Modern India has done that and, unfortunately forgotten about it. Cities like Rourkela, Bokaro, Durgapur & Bhilai which have almost similar design created by the master architect. If one pauses to think we have in almost all large cities, the state / city development authority housing board, which make ” affordable ” housing blocks. The typology remains the same over different locations. I think its time for a revisit and see it with new light in the context of abatement of climate change. Imagine High rises, commercial districts, row-houses and bungalows all having same or similar design ? Developed by private entities based on market demand, but following Development Rules which have been strictly adhered to. What would be the advantages, lets examine  in brief and re-kindle the thoughts which are perhaps lost in time.

The most exciting part is the CDM ( clean development mechanism ) potential. Every building has potentially two methods for adoption, to earn Carbon Credits. One is to reduce its embodied energy through better management of building materials. And the other is to reduce its Water and Electrical energy consumption. While the latter is comparatively easy and ‘meth’ AMS-III AE is recognised by the CDM Board. It is the embodied energy reduction that  has greater potential in terms of actually reducing GHG  as building related activities account for 40% of the Emission and 60% of waste is construction related.  However it is difficult to map it  and manage the MRV.( Monitoring – Reporting -Verification.) especially in the Building industry within the Construction sector in India. And this is precisely where I see a solution, should we make ‘replica townships’. We already have the datum to compare. The planned steel townships were made just after Indian independence. It has as any township should have – residential blocks, commercial blocks and infrastructural blocks such as schools, hospitals, cinemas,  police station, post-office , bus and railway terminals. So a major portion of the township plans would be available along with records of construction process; which would be archaic as per today’s construction methods (barring the A- centres of India, tier -II & III along with most rural setting still follow the old method of construction) but the layout plan is excellent. So with foresight and statesmanship, ( wishful thinking does not attract punitive punishment under any law ) should the Indian government both at Union and State level want to pursue its own stated Nation Mission for Sustainable Habitat under NAPCC; they should pass laws under Urban Planning which can make this thought into reality. As the Union government has already created the fantastic Mission, all it needs is to rise above political compulsions and address the issues at the Federal level, by becoming the facilitator in creating sound policies for the States, which then follows the path towards sustainable development.  And the benefits would be several.

First the  Urban Planning will be made easy – The biggest challenge the Urban planners face is the assumptions one needs to take into account, while proposing a new township. What would be the population density? What would be  the amount of water and energy requirement ? How will the municipal requirements met?  How best to accurately calculate cost of development. Where-all would the failure of oversight be, causing unplanned growth or breed corruption? Because post the master layout plan, the State development authority has no control { which is correct to an extent } over what would be the look and size of the building which would come up within the designated zone of the master plan. All such issues would become more streamlined and thus decision making more easy as the learning process gets more refined with each replica township coming up every-time.

The master-plan need not be a monotonous one. India has 5 – climatic conditions and design guidelines based on these are already incorporated in the National Green Building certification program – GRIHA. Therefore Master planners can create guidelines which conform to region and state specifically. However, within that area the designs can remain similar. Further, the best practices followed in other climatic zones and states would be available for record to plan better Climate Resilient cities, which is the underlying purpose of this article too. Imagine the potential, should a developer choose three typical design and develop different projects, in 3 different cities within one climatic zone. While the town-planing would differ in layout and scale, the buildings built therein being the same, would reduce cost of construction to a great extent. Design inputs required would reduce, while scope of improvement increase with every project thus designed. As every project has some amount of wastage, knowing the quantity to a more sure approximation, would help in planning for Reduce – Reuse -Recycle as enshrined within the Green Building methods both LEED & GRIHA.

Further a brand identity would be built. A building design can be copy-righted so to speak. And what an emotional connect it would be for the newly wed Bride, who has sadness in her heart for having left her ‘Babul ka aangan’,(fathers home) finds that her ‘Pia’ (husband) has the same bungalow she grew up in. Familiar setting instils confidence and a confident and happy new Bride can do wonders in settling herself well into the new life, she would be beginning.  That it would earn the builder/developer a permanent costumer (extremely difficult in this era of multiple choices), is another happy story. And if we speak of men,  I’m a member of an on-line group which was created by my childhood school mates and friends. We all lived in a gated township of a multinational company, where our fathers worked. Today of the 300 odd members, 51% would surely buy a home, should I design the replica of the town we all grew up in !

And the final winner would be my Countrymen, most are laymen when it comes to understand the importance of town-planning and Sustainable Urban development.  By providing them with standardized product, they would have more informed choice to take the right decision, as they do while buying their refrigerator or car. And most importantly it perhaps would become easier to decongest the future Megalopolis. For why would one not move into a newer town for better prospects while still be able to live within similar surroundings ? And why would people migrate to a particular city when similar ones are next door offering similar opportunities ?

And the final thought would be, the Urban planners should consider bio-mimiciry in their town planning. As technology would allow us to make higher sky-scrapers, rules must define low rise zones to be closer to coast and high rise more inland, this simple thought would allow for more natural wind flow pattern, which will help limiting air  pollution.

While no one can make another New York, Hong Kong  or Mumbai in similar form, potential or opportunities the new ones at least would have a future of their own making and who knows better the best that is in offer today.

Moreover Climate Resilient Cities which I am proposing would be offering a more prettier skyline than what any present day modern megalopolis has to offer. To underscore my point, which from all the above images posted in this article would you choose first for a postcard ?

I rest my argument !

 

 

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Green Business Ideas – Applying Solar OPEX model on Green Buildings will make Grid parity easy.


The Economy is on a slowdown due to negative growth in all sectors in India. Some of it can be attributed to the Global mayhem. To be honest, it could be seen as  a good news. Especially for the Environment and advocates for Sustainable living. World over, humans follow one simple rule. When the going is good, why bother to stop and listen to saner voices ? However, post the Stern Review & SREX report, thing seem to be going towards a better direction. The road to Rio+20 may turn out to be a happy one, should this downtrend in economy continue till the Rio summit, as more and more Economists would advocate to overhaul the present Crony Capitalist model and turn it into Eco-Capitalism and the benefits of Green Business would come to fore. Although the RET (renewable energy technology) industry would wish me luck, most trade guru’s would laugh at my opinion. It would be challenging to prevent a roll back on gains made till date, at Rio+20. As because this is precisely the argument which would come forth -‘The World economy can not afford to go Green’, would be their argument laughing at any new idea brought forth. But they were also laughing at various other predictions of world-class economists and other saner voices before the Lehman Brother episode. It is the most foolish presumption and many, far more intelligent than me, would also agree.

The World Economy needs a review. A fresh approach, when unprecedented Climate change threatens all; institutions like CAN-International, Green Peace, WRI  and all others must grow and spread their influence of good-sense across Nations.  In the UNFCCC‘s Durban summit their stellar performance was evident in getting something out of nothing at all.

America has come up with a new way of conducting Business – ” Benefit Corporation“; I loved the word and the meaning therein – A company for profit of self through Sustainable practices benefiting the environment and  thus the community as a result. And Europe; when unprecedented economic hardships threaten the fabric of society they have come of with wonderful thoughts like  OPEX -Solar. With German and French companies leading the way. Their presence in India will be felt soon.

In my avatar as a Energy Efficient Building consultant, popularly known as Green Building consultant, (and fashioning my firm as a “benefit corporation” henceforth) crossing that last hurdle of having Renewable Energy or Green Power installed, which is not Solar Thermal but Solar PV always proves to be a challenge. While exploring potential in other RE formats, other than wind, has not truly taken off yet.  This led me towards a Green Business Idea. Solar PV in OPEX RE format in all  Certified Green Buildings projects .

India practices two certification programs. One is GRIHA, born out of the NAPCC’s  Mission on Sustainable Habitat and guided by the international think tank TERI. The Eight stated missions of NAPCC is the best hope of India standing tall in the Climate change negotiations at UNFCCC. GRIHA takes into account the Union governments commitment to sustainable habitat across all sections of society both Urban and Rural.

The other is by the business people for the people. CII’s  indigenous version of USGBC’s LEED. Guided by IGBC from its headquarters in Hyderabad, India’s first LEED Platinum Certified building, various certification programs have been dished out.

Both rating system have many common goals but with divergent approach. Let us first identify the common ground each rating possesses with regards to RET   ( renewable energy technology ).

Under Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment one requires –

Commitment: Meet energy requirements for a minimum of 10% of the internal lighting load (for general lighting) or its equivalent from renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, etc). Use renewable energy sources in buildings to reduce the use of conventional/fossil-fuel based energy resources.

Commitment: Ensure that a minimum 50% of the annual energy requirement for heating water (for applications such as hot water for all needs, like for canteen, washing, and bath rooms/toilets, except for space heating) is supplied from renewable energy source.

Under Indian Green Building Council we have many subdivisions, but energy from RET is more or less common, let’s briefly look at the various certification programs and what they say on RET under LEED.

LEED India NC Rating :

7.5%  RE onsite Assess the project for renewable energy potential including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydro, and bio-gas strategies. When applying these strategies, take advantage of net metering with the local utility.

Green Power Demonstrate that the company has installed green power equivalent to 50% of the total energy requirement of the building, anywhere in the country. This investment should come because of the rated building and should be 50 % of the building consumption.

LEED India CS Rating:

1 -35% RE onsite Engage in at least a 2-year renewable energy contract to provide at least 35% of the core & shell building’s electricity from renewable sources, as defined by the Center for Resource Solutions’ Green-e Energy product certification requirements. Supply a net fraction of the building’s total energy use (as expressed as a fraction of annual energy cost) through the use of on-site renewable energy systems. Use on-site renewable energy systems to offset at least 1% of the building energy costs. Substantiate the project’s compliance on this aspect by expressing the cost of energy produced through renewable sources as a percentage of the building’s total energy cost, annually.

Green Power Demonstrate that the company has installed green power equivalent to 50%of the total energy requirement of the building, anywhere in the country. This investment should come because of the rated building and should be 50 % of the building consumption.Estimate the energy needs of the building on annual basis. Install green power plants in the country, which meets the 100% of the total energy requirement of the building. Green power is derived from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, or low-impact hydro sources.

Green Homes Rating:

On site RE Install renewable energy systems for at least 5% of the total connected load of the building.

Green Township Rating:

On Site RE Install renewable energy systems to generate power through solar, wind, bio-mass, bio-gas, biodiesel or any other forms of renewable energy so that their installed capacity is at least 20% of the annual energy consumption in areas under the developer’s scope.

Green Power Demonstrate the project has invested in off-site green power for at least 50 % of the total annual consumption in areas under developer’s scope. Estimate the energy needs of the project on annual basis. Install off-site green power plants which meet at least 25 % of the total energy requirement of the project. Green power can be derived from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, or low impact hydro sources.

Green SEZ Rating :

On Site RE Install renewable energy systems to generate power through solar, wind, bio-mass/ bio-gas, or any other forms of renewable energy for at least 5% of the annual consumption (in  developer’s/ co-developer’s scope).

 Green Power Demonstrate the project has invested in off-site green power for at least 25% of the annual energy consumption in developer’s scope for at least 2 years. Estimate the energy needs of the building on annual basis. Install green power plants offsite which meet the 25 % of the total energy requirement of the building. Green power can be derived from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, small hydro power plants, etc.,

Green Co Rating :

 On Site RE both Electrical & Thermal To develop concrete action plan for increasing the share of renewable energy generation / utilization of the company. Install on-site renewable energy systems to generate electrical energy through solar, wind, biomass, bio-gas, bio-diesel, or any other forms of renewable energy and / or generation of thermal energy (expressed as an equivalent of electrical energy) to cater to the total energy requirement of the company. Availability of renewable energy resources is to be assessed and feasibility studies conducted before deciding on on-site installations. Green power can be sourced from solar, wind, bio-mass, bio-gas, bio-diesel or small hydro sources or any other accepted sources of renewable energy.

As one can see, the potential of bringing in RET was enshrined, it was only the crazy economics we all follow that makes RE unaffordable. Frankly I could never understand this business of applying RoI selectively. I have argued this in my earlier post in detail, so I will concentrate more on the Green Business Idea here.

English: PS20 and PS10 in Andalusia, Spain

In OPEX -SPV or operational expense on solar photo voltaic; the RESCO (renewable energy service company) is contemplating  to sell the power generated, directly to the client instead of routing it though the established Energy distribution companies as was mooted in the NVVM Scheme . Although the generation through SPV is still costly, the RESCO are looking at covering part of their expense via the REC Schemeand raise money through standard market driven investments. Hoping to breakeven through economy of scale. A bold move which needs to be lauded, yet treated with caution.

Lets now examine the advantages and pitfalls the model has.

OPEX Solar would create the economy of scale which any venture requires. This  I recommend, should happen by attempting to pick up the lowest hanging fruit. That is by becoming the Utility provider to the Green Buildings which are already registered in India. As shown above almost all the certification types require RE or Green Power. As the commitment is already made to build green and with the criteria already in place, the RESCO’s  effort remains only to do the math and give a viable PPA model.

As the rating covers almost all sectors the foot-print is huge. However, in each of the ratings there would be possibilities and problems unique to it.

Let us start with Green Homes –

Residences are the lowest hanging fruit. Already a firm  “Mera Gao Power” providing roof-top model at a very economical rate to rural India which the large power utilities find unfeasible. {Large Hydro dams and Thermal Power  plants are set up displacing 100’s of villages; that they find the very same villages resettled ( if at all ) beside it, to be too remote to be provided power with, is perhaps a unique Indian policy many of us with low intelligence find hard to understand.} However what has been the curse now can be a boon to the villages and RESCO’s especially the ones which can provide power in OPEX model. Simply because the Carbon Credit it would generate over and above the REC would not only make this system of business viable, it will create a resurgent India. Perhaps this can be done in other countries too.

Now what if this is brought into the residential blocks within town & cities?Many face power-outages during summer. It would work perfectly against the diesel abatement policy India has in place.  But if roof-top Solar is provided in OPEX model, the problem could be administrative. How would the RESCO collect the tariff, should a housing society not pay its utility bill on time, or a member fails to pay his/her utility bill ? Would the RESCO have the authority and immunity from harm / legal persecution the Municipal authorities have, to initiate disciplinary action? The same problem could be from commercial centres too.

Further, large housing societies need high amount of power, however the present solar PV modules have low plant efficiency thus require large amount of space and are heavy too. Therefore the required amount of power may not get generated via-roof top and off-site green power may be needed.

In this the problem is open access to the grid, which the state owned power utility companies find difficult both in business model and technically to provide. In some states like Gujrat it has been allowed, others are to follow soon.

The problem of electrical transmission over long distance is the “drop” it faces, ie., some power is lost in transit, due to simple laws of physics. Whereas this loss can be calculated and that much extra power fed at the supply end to compensate it in case of traditional power supply, for Solar PV it becomes a problem because currently the technology is dependent on Sunshine and therefore erratic to precisely pin down how much power would be generated per minute. This creates problem for evacuation and  steady stream of transmission. Perhaps when grid parity does take place, the investors could use the model devised by Gemasolar in Spain to store the extra  power and compensate the loss in transmission. Or other innovations would make this possible.

The other problem is should a RESCO sell a PPA model to a client which is off-site and wheels the power to the client, during planned load-shedding by the Municipal authority / State power company; the transmission would not happen. Banking that power is a economic solution but not technically sound because the client had agreed to the PPA ( power purchase agreement ) precisely to avoid power outages and avail the benefits of Diesel abatement.

Another issue is the time frame. Not many would like to sign a PPA of 25 years for roof-top models or even offsite because all business policies are dynamic in nature. Requirements change over time. Planing for 10 years can be done with reasonable permutation combinations, but not having flexibility for 25 years would be a non-starter for some sectors. Next, vintage of technology. No one would like especially when the investment is not theirs to be stuck with an asset which does not perform optimally with time. When I wrote another article on Solar PV, as how to make cheap solar power, I was just learning about OPEX solar, but some of the ideas given there could come to the rescue for OPEX solar.

Overall OPEX Solar model is here to stay and I already have plans to propagate it as much as possible to make this World a better place to live in.

Note: Courtesy to the owners of the images posted in this blog.

 

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