Solar-powered ATMs, telecom towers catching up

Solar energy, in a limited way, has started powering telecom towers, bank branches, data centres and ATMs in power deficient rural India and areas faced with erratic supply of grid power.

Companies providing equipment for power back-up and solar power producers have confirmed that this trend is catching up with support from government as well as telecom companies and banks which are opting for clean and uninterrupted energy.

“We are providing solar inverters of smaller ratings to ATMs. More than ATMs, our concentration is bank branches. At present, the adoption of solar power in the banking sector is at a nascent stage, but it is aggressively picking up,” Sunil Khanna, President and Managing Director, Emerson Network Power, told The Hindu.

Asked to quantify the number of ATMs running on solar power, he said: “It will be difficult to give a number, but one can expect solar power ATMs to populate Tier-3 and Tier-4 cities in the near future. We see great business potential in this sector going ahead. Some of the ATMs that are running are located in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.”

He said in the banking sector there had been a shift from traditional data centres to data centres in a box which were cost-effective solutions and fell in the realm of ‘plug and play’. In rural areas, solar energy was being preferred to run data centres, he added.

Emerson Network Power, a part of $24.7 billion American conglomerate Emerson, is into back-up power system, among others.

More than banks, telecom companies have adopted solar energy to power telecom towers.

“At present, we are powering more than 20 telecom towers and by April1 2014, the number will go up to 40. From one micro solar power plant site, we are powering three towers of different companies,” Sushil Jiwarajka, Chairman, Omnigrid Micropower Co. Pvt. Ltd., told The Hindu. He said his company, a micro power producer, had been setting up solar power plants costing about Rs.75 lakh in inaccessible areas targeting telecom towers as anchor customers.

“We are providing surplus power to banks, schools, petrol pumps and even households in the locality to make our project viable,” he added. Omnigrid, which has now solar plants in Uttar Pradesh, is gearing up to enter Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, North East, Madhya Pradesh and J&K which face acute power shortage.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) requirement for telecom companies to use renewable sources of energy for powering 50 per cent of their telecom towers in rural areas is helping.

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Oil companies floating two SPVs for green projects

State-run oil companies will join hands with Solar Energy Corporation of India and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency under the ministry of new and renewable energy for two special purpose vehicles to set up large-scale solar and wind power projects in India and abroad.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation along with Oil India Ltd, GAIL and Engineers India Ltd will join the two solar energy entities to form a joint venture for big grid-connected projects.

A second entity will be led by IndianOil Corporation for setting up off-grid projects using advanced technologies. This SPV will also include Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation.

Five Bangalore companies join hands for solar project

In an effort to reduce their excessive dependence on grid power, five companies in Bangalore – Infosys, Cognizant, Coke, Philips and Bangalore International Exhibition Center – have come together to set up an aggregate solar power project.

The project, implemented by World Resources Institute under its Green Power Market Development Group, was launched in January 2013 and received four bids from suppliers . With two finalists now, the project has reached negotiations with individual companies, sources said.

This collaborative solar project took shape after the companies were looking to invest in renewable power but were hesitant to deal with the many variables including power purchase agreements. The project entails the companies to mount roof top solar panels and draw solar power from these for their daily consumption .

Turning Mumbai into a solar city

The geographical location of Mumbai provides the city with almost 300 days of sunlight in a year, making sun the most abundantly available source of energy that we are yet to tap into.

Independent think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF), along with a few local bodies, has submitted a proposal to the central and state authorities for the ‘Mumbai Solar Mission’, which suggests interesting options the government can undertake to incorporate solar energy into the city’s power scheme.

The financial capital of India is one of the few cities that can afford installation of solar PV panels, yet solar constitutes less than 0.1% of the total energy produced here. A solar installation requires a one-time expenditure on equipment that pays back in the form of electricity savings over the years.

“The cost of electricity is about Rs7 per unit right now and solar is almost there. A 1 KW solar installation would cost about Rs80,000 on an average, which has a life of 25 years. In the first five years, you get what you spent back in terms of electricity savings and then it (power) can be considered free for the remaining 20 years,” explained Aditya Khandekar, researcher at ORF and the other contributor to the proposal.

Agarwal said, “Electricity tariffs are only rising and we should start experimenting with other renewable options in case we need to adopt it on a large scale later.”

Mumbai’s energy demands approximately touch 3,000MW per year, which constitutes a major part of Maharashtra’s energy consumption. The aim of Mumbai Solar Mission is to generate at least 10%, or 300MW, of this energy through renewable means.