Bengaluru: Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is all set to add one more initiative in its attempts to go green. It is planning to install solar panels on the terrace of its main office building at Shantinagar in Bengaluru, according to a report published in Vijaya Karnataka, a Kannada daily.
The office building in Shantinagar consists of varied departments, hotels, shopping malls, shops, and Traffic and Transit Management Centre (TTMC) bus-stand. Further, BMTC has lent premises for other departments like excise department.
The combined electrical consumption of all these entities would be pegged at around 3.7 lakh units per month costing around 32-33 lakh rupees per month.
In order to reduce the expenditure towards electric bills, the BMTC has decided to use the space available on the terrace of its building and has decided to call tenders from solar companies.
The area available on the terrace is around 1.2 lakh square feet and BMTC hopes to generate around 1 lakh units of electricity per month from the solar panels. The cost of installation of these solar panels is expected to be around 5-6 crores. BMTC also intends to sell any excess electricity generated to Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM).
The solar company which would get the tender to install the solar panels is also expected to run the unit for 15 years, after which the BMTC itself will maintain the unit. During these 15 years, the solar company will sell the electricity to BMTC at rates which are 1-2 rupees lesser per unit than what it will charge BESCOM. This is expected to save lakhs of rupees per month for BMTC.
This is not the first green initiative that BMTC has taken. Previously, it had introduced India’s first Electric Bus in 2014. Further, it has been working towards Solar charged buses as well.
When the worst floods in a century swept through India’s southern Kerala state in August, they killed more than 480 people and left behind more than $5 billion in damage.But one thing survived unscathed: India’s first floating solar panels, on one of the country’s largest water reservoirs.
As India grapples with wilder weather, surging demand for power and a goal to nearly quintuple the use of solar energy in just four years, “we are very much excited about floating solar,” said Shailesh K. Mishra, director of power systems at the government Solar Energy Corporation of India.
India is planning new large-scale installations of the technology on hydropower reservoirs and other water bodies in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand states, and in the Lakshadweep islands, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The cost is coming almost to the same level as ground solar, and then it will go (forward) very fast,” he predicted.
As countries move to swiftly scale up solar power, to meet growing demand for energy and to try to curb climate change, floating solar panels – installed on reservoirs or along coastal areas – are fast gaining popularity, particularly in Asia, experts say.
The panels – now in place from China to the Maldives to Britain – get around some of the biggest problems facing traditional solar farms, particularly a lack of available land, said Oliver Knight, a senior energy specialist with the World Bank.
“The water body is already there – you don’t need to go out and find it,” he said in a telephone interview.
And siting solar arrays on water – most cover up to 10 percent of a reservoir – can cut evaporation as well, a significant benefit in water-short places, Knight said.
Pakistan’s new government, for instance, is talking about using floating solar panels on water reservoirs near Karachi and Hyderabad, both to provide much-needed power and to curb water losses as climate change brings hotter temperatures and more evaporation, he said.
Solar arrays on hydropower dams also can take advantage of existing power transmission lines, and excess solar can be used to pump water, effectively storing it as hydropower potential.
China currently has the most of the 1.1 gigawatts of floating solar generating capacity now installed, according to the World Bank.
But the technology’s potential is much bigger – about 400 gigawatts, or about as much generating capacity as all the solar photovoltaic panels installed in the world through 2017, the bank said.
“If you covered 1 percent of manmade water bodies, you’re already looking at 400 gigawatts,” Knight said. “That’s very significant.”
Growing use of the technology has raised fears that it could block sun into reservoirs, affecting wildlife and ecosystems, or that electrical systems might not stand up to a watery environment – particularly in salty coastal waters.
But backers say that while environmental concerns need to be better studied, the relatively small amount of surface area covered by the panels – at least at the moment – doesn’t appear to create significant problems.
“People worried what will happen to fish, to water quality,” said India’s Mishra. “Now all that attention has gone.”
What may be more challenging is keeping panels working – and free of colonizing sea creatures – in corrosively salty coastal installations, which account for a relatively small percentage of total projects so far, noted Thomas Reindl of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.
He said he expects the technology will draw more investment “when durability and reliability has been proven in real world installations.”
Currently floating solar arrays cost about 18 percent more than traditional solar photovoltaic arrays, Knight said – but that cost is often offset by other lower costs.
“In many places one has to pay for land, for resettlement of people or preparing and leveling land and building roads,” he said. With floating solar, “you avoid quite a bit of that.”
Solar panels used on water, which cools them, also can produce about 5 percent more electricity, he said.
Mishra said that while, in his view, India has sufficient land for traditional solar installations, much of it is in remote areas inhospitable to agriculture, including deserts.
Putting solar panels on water, by comparison, cuts transmission costs by moving power generation closer to the people who need the energy, he said.