Renewable energy in India : News & Updates

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India is now a world leader in renewable energy
Developing nations are now driving the world’s gradual shift towards renewable energy, and India has become one of the leaders of the pack.

With increased investments and clean energy installations, as well as the world’s largest renewables auction market, India ranks 2nd after Chile in the 2018 Climatescope (pdf) report by energy researcher BloombergNEF. The organisation studied over 80 indicators, such as clean energy policies, power sector structures, emissions and installed capacities, for 103 countries around the world.

India’s second position represents a climb of three spots from the 5th position it held last year. In comparison, China ranked 7th, down from the top position last year.

The Narendra Modi government in India has set an ambitious goal of reaching 175GW of clean energy generation by March 2022. BloombergNEF’s research shows that in June 2018, renewables accounted for 71GW of India’s installed generating capacity. India’s renewables auctioned capacity has also increased by 68% since 2017, and clean energy investments, mostly related to solar power projects, added up to $7.4 billion in the first half of 2018, the report said. Renewable energy installations surpassed those by coal power plants for the first time in 2017, BloombergNEF added.

But India isn’t quite ready to quit coal power for good. Though new coal-fired capacity fell to 4GW in 2017, from 17GW per year between 2012 and 2016, India still depends on the polluting fuel for three-fourths of its energy requirements, according to the report. China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa account for 86% of the 193GW of coal-fired plants currently under construction in developing nations.

“Faced with significant pressure to expand energy access (India) and keep power affordably priced (China), policy-makers will be reluctant to de-commission these relatively new plants anytime soon,” the report says. “And no less than 81% of all emerging market coal-fired capacity is located in these two nations.”

Meanwhile, not everything is rosy on the ground in India’s renewables market. Poor policies have sparked uncertainty over the duties on imported solar panels, causing a sharp decline in new solar capacity additions in 2018. Of the 175GW target for 2022, 100 GW of renewable energy was slated to come from solar power, but analysts have warned that the way things are going, this goal is looking extremely unlikely.
India is now a world leader in renewable energy. Here's how
 

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India to install 54.7 GW wind capacity by 2022
India is likely to install 54.7 GW of wind capacity by 2022 against the 60-GW target set by the government, Fitch Solutions Macro Research has said in a report.

The country has set an ambitious target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power.

"We remain cautious on India meeting its ambitious 2022 targets for wind power capacity growth, as land acquisition issues and grid bottlenecks will lead to delays to project implementation in the sector... We forecast India to install 54.7 GW of wind capacity by 2022, compared to the 60 GW government target," Fitch Solutions Macro Research, unit of Fitch Group, said in its outlook for the country's renewable energy sector.

The agency also said it believes that concerns about the economic viability of low tariff projects from India's wind capacity auctions raise the risk that investor appetite will weaken and auctions will be postponed.

"The combination of several challenges in the country's wind power sector will hit near-term growth momentum, including land availability hurdles, grid access bottlenecks and concerns over the viability of low tender bids. This informs our view that India only will add on average 4.5 GW of wind capacity annually between 2019 and 2022, with the aforementioned risks highlighting further downside risk," the report said.

According to an year-end review released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in December 2018, the country seeks to tender a total 20 GW of wind capacity by March 2020, with two year implementation deadlines, in order to facilitate enough growth to meet the expansion targets.

However, delays to the implementation of tendered projects and more muted interest in new auctions will present a substantial hurdle to fulfilling these envisioned expansion plans, the report said.

"Of a total of 2,943 MW tendered by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu over 2017 - where 42 per cent of total installed wind capacity is located in India as of end-March 2019 - only 825 MW was commissioned as of March 2019," it noted.

Concerns over the viability of low tender bids and land acquisition issues in Gujarat were key contributors to the slow implementation of the projects, which initially were expected to be commissioned within 18 months, Fitch Solutions said.

Further, the grid connection issues have been also plaguing developers of wind power projects.

"In addition, should the facility not be able to sell electricity, the project's loan interest could start to pile up and alter project economics. As such, grid connection bottlenecks represents a key risk to project developers.

"In particular, the expectation for developers to launch low bids, despite substantial project implementation challenges, is set to remain a hurdle to India deploying enough renewables projects to meet ambitious expansion plans," the report noted.
India to install 54.7 GW wind capacity by 2022: Fitch Solutions
 
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India is investing more money in solar power than coal for first time
Looking on the bright side. Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

22 May 2019, Charlotte Edmond, Formative Content

In India coal is king. It powers huge swathes of the country and its use is still rising. But there are signs that coal's dominance might one day be challenged. India's investments in renewable sources are now outpacing those in fossil fuels, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.


Image: IEA


Total renewable power investments topped those in fossil fuel-based power for the third year in a row. And spending on solar photovoltaics (PV), supported by government auctions, exceeded coal for the first time last year. The falling costs of bringing solar power online as well as favourable government policies have seen solar’s star rise in recent years.


Image: IEA


But that’s not to say the country’s hunger for coal is going away any time soon: it remains one of the world’s largest coal consumers. Investment in supply grew last year, supported by a policy favouring domestic production ahead of imports – although the fuel was still one of the country’s largest imports last year.


At a time when other nations are curbing coal use, India is bucking the trend and the vast majority of the country is still powered by fossil fuels, mostly coal.


Image: Inside Climate News

India’s energy future


India is still a relatively modest energy consumer, particularly in comparison to the United States, but demand is set to climb rapidly as its population gets richer. The country`s share of global energy demand will double by 2040, oil and gas giant BP estimates. And almost half of this new demand will be met by coal.


Although investments in renewables will continue to mount, the continued reliance on coal means greenhouse gas emissions by India – already one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters – will climb substantially.


Image: IEA


Given its soaring demand for power, it is little surprise India was the fastest-growing investor in the energy sector last year, according to the IEA. Continuing to meet this demand will require serious investment.


The country spent more than $20 billion on its grid last year, and the Central Electricity Authority estimated an extra $40 billion of transmission spending – the cost of getting electricity from the power plant to the substation – would be needed in the next three years. That’s over half as much again as it is currently spending.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced massive solar energy investments in 2015, pledging to surpass targets in the Paris climate agreement. But there is no getting away from the fact that coal is perceived as a cheap source of energy to feed Indians’ increasing demand for power.

India is investing more money in solar power than coal for first time
 

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment
  • 3 days ago, under Climate Change, News, Renewable Energy
1558637833809.png


by Lucienne Cross

The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015.


Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution.

Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments.


“There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years.

Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects.

Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually.

India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases.

Via CleanTechnica

Image via DoshiJi

India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment
 

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India is cheapest solar energy producer; beats China, UK, US among others
By: FE Online | Updated: June 25, 2019 4:31:35 PM

Beating countries like China, which usually is the cheapest manufacturer of everything, India has also left behind the US, UK, Canada and France among others.

(Image: Reuters)

India is now the forerunner in producing solar power at lowest cost globally and is far ahead of other nations in low average production costs, a report said. Beating countries like China, which usually is the cheapest manufacturer of everything, India has also left behind the US, UK, Canada and France among others. While the global average of installing utility-scale solar PV projects was $1210 for a kilowatt, the same was found to be as low as $793/kW in India in 2018, the report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said. India’s neighbour China also saw very competitive installation costs of $879/kW compared to the highest rate of $2,427 per kW in Canada. Among European countries, Italy saw very competitive installation costs for 2018 at $870/kW.

“India was estimated to have the lowest total installed costs for new utility-scale solar PV projects that were commissioned in 2018 at USD 793/kW, 27% lower than for projects commissioned in 2017,” IRENA said in its May 2019 released report. Also, India is the only country where the cost of setting up solar PV projects between 2010 and 2018 have dropped dramatically and at the fastest pace by 80% compared to other eight major markets including China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

The highest cost of setting up solar projects were found in:

  • Canada at $2,427/kW;
  • Russian Federation at $2,302/kW;
  • Japan at $2,101/kW;
  • South Africa at $1,617/kW and
  • Australia at $1,554/kW.
Other countries with comparatively low production rates

Apart from India, China and Italy, where the setting up costs of utility-scale solar PV plants were low, France at $1,074/kW and Germany at $1,113/kW have also the lowest installation costs in G20 countries, according to the IRENA report.

Speaking on the report, Francesco La Camera, Director General International Renewable Energy Agency, said that in the past decade, governments, industry, financing institutions, investors and project developers have worked together to drive down costs and improve performance of renewable power generation. “Solar and wind power, once seen as an expensive way to address economic, environmental and social development goals, are now a cost-competitive way to meet energy demand,” he added.

India is cheapest solar energy producer; beats China, UK, US among others
 

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India plans $330 billion renewables push by 2030 without hurting coal
India said on Thursday it needs $330 billion in investments over the next decade to power its renewable energy dream, but coal would remain central to its electricity generation.

FILE PHOTO: A worker shovels coal in a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
The energy guzzling country wants to raise its renewable energy capacity to 500 Gigawatts (GW), or 40% of total capacity, by 2030. Renewables currently account for 22% of India’s total installed capacity of about 357 GW.

“Additional investments in renewable plants up to year 2022 would be about $80 billion at today’s prices and an investment of around $250 billion would be required for the period 2023-2030,” according to the government’s economic survey presented to parliament on Thursday.

India wants to have 175 GW of renewable-based installed power capacity by 2022.


The investment estimate reflects the magnitude of financial challenges facing one of the world’s most important
growth markets for renewable energy, with government data indicating a growth slowdown in private and capital investments in the year ended March 2019.

India, which receives twice as much sunshine as European countries, wants to make solar a cornerstone of its renewable expansion, but also wants to make use of its cheap and abundant coal reserves, the fifth-largest in the world.


The annual economic survey warned India against abruptly halting coal-based utilities, citing risks to its banking sector and the stability of the electricity grid.

“It may not be advisable to effect a sudden abandonment of coal based power plants without complete utilization of their useful lifetimes as it would lead to stranding of assets that can have further adverse impact on the banking sector,” the survey said.

Thermal power plants account for 80% of all industrial emissions of particulate matter, sulfur and nitrous oxides in India.

India, one of the world's largest coal producers and greenhouse gas emitters, estimates coal to be its energy mainstay for at least the next three decades.

The country’s coal use rose 9.1% to nearly a billion tonnes in 2018-19.

The survey said it would be difficult for a growing economy like India to migrate to renewable power supply unless “sufficient technological breakthrough in energy storage happens in the near future”.

Environmentalists worry that India’s rising use of coal at a time when many Western nations are rejecting the dirty fossil fuel will hamper the global fight against climate change, despite the country’s commitment to renewable energy.
India plans $330 billion renewables push by 2030 without hurting coal - Reuters
 
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India is now producing the world’s cheapest solar power
A short time ago, solar power was considered a marginal power source. But it is now one of the major drivers behind the transition to greener, more sustainable sustainable energy.

Around the globe, prices are falling and India is now producing the world's cheapest solar power, according to an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) survey.
The costs of building large-scale solar installations in India fell by 27% in 2018, year-on-year, thanks to a combination of low-priced panel imports from China, abundant land and cheap labour.

Image: IRENA

Average solar prices from large-scale installations in India were less than a third of Canada’s, where costs were highest of the countries surveyed.

More than half of the total costs of building a solar installation in India relate to hardware, like racking and mounting, while the remainder involves soft costs such as system design and financing.

Lower service and labour outlay have contributed to a dramatic fall in the investment needed to set up large-scale solar power-generating projects. Between 2010 and 2018, setup costs in India fell by 80%, the most precipitous decline of any country.

Back to nature


As prices come down, demand goes up. The expanding global solar sector now accounts for 55% of all new renewable power-generating capacity. Last year, 94 gigawatts of new capacity came online, largely added by Asian countries.

China was responsible for 44 gigawatts of all new solar capacity, almost five-times more than India, which followed directly behind. Other rapidly expanding markets include the US, Japan, Australia and Germany.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?
Moving to clean energy is key to combatting climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated. Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy initiative is working with projects including the Partnering for Sustainable Energy Innovation, the Future of Electricity, the Global Battery Alliance and Scaling Renewable Energy to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.
Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

Alongside the rise of solar, other clean energy sources like wind farms and hydropower are also growing. Renewable energy now generates a third of global power capacity.

“Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” said Adnan Amin, former director general of IRENA.
“The strong growth in 2018 continues the remarkable trend of the last five years, which reflects an ongoing shift towards renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation.”
A powerful incentive

As markets shift to cleaner energy sources, non-renewables – such as fossil fuels and nuclear power – have seen a steady decline throughout Europe, North America and Oceania.
But countries in Asia and the Middle East are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, where oil- and gas-generating capacity is on the rise.
The IRENA report sees falling renewable technology costs as key to future energy decarbonisation, noting it will ultimately be cheaper to build and operate solar and wind farms than to run existing coal-fired power plants.

Onshore wind and solar power are quickly becoming less expensive than coal and oil, which could provide a powerful incentive for fossil fuel-dependent countries to switch to more sustainable energy sources.
India is now producing the world’s cheapest solar power
 

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India readies plan for $4 billion Tesla-scale battery storage plants
India is putting the final shape on a plan to build at least four Tesla-style giga factories to manufacture batteries with an investment of around $4 billion, as the country prepares to switch to electric vehicles to curb pollution and cut its dependence on foreign oil.

“We are moving ahead with the plan and a cabinet note for the same has been floated," said a senior government official, requesting anonymity. “Why should India import battery storage units when we have the largest market here?"

Aimed at securing India’s energy needs, the plan to set up these factories of 10 gigawatt hours (GWh) each is being helmed by federal policy think tank NITI Aayog and looks to accomplish what Tesla has done at its Gigafactory in Nevada, US.

“The focus on battery storage manufacturing will enable India to develop an electric vehicle ecosystem including manufacturing and R&D, an opportunity the country missed while developing the solar industry," said Rupesh Agarwal, founder of AEM, an electric mobility company.

As part of the plan, the government may offer a raft of incentives to manufacturers such as concessional financing options with around 3% foreign exchange hedge on overseas loans and a fixed 3% interest subvention on loans availed in Indian rupees. In addition, a reduction in minimum alternative tax (MAT) may be offered.

According to information reviewed by Mint, the support extended by the government for advanced chemistry cells and battery manufacturing may also include an investment-linked tax incentive under Section 35 AD, a deemed infrastructure status and a suitable basic customs duty safeguard. It may also offer an output-linked subsidy on kilowatt hour (KWh) of cells sold.

Apart from electric vehicles, such battery storages will cater to the consumer electronics industry and electricity grids, given the intermittent nature of electricity from clean energy sources such as solar and wind.
According to a conservative scenario envisaged by NITI Aayog, India will need six such gigawatt-scale facilities (of 10 GWh each) by 2025 and 12 by 2030. While this doesn’t include the export market potential, the base scenario envisions 11 such giga factories by 2025 and 24 by 2030.

(Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint)

To put this into perspective, each GWh (1,000 megawatt hour) of battery capacity is sufficient to power 1 million homes for an hour and around 30,000 electric cars.

The programme aims to be technology-agnostic, meaning it will be left to the market to determine which technology is best suited for the country, depending on demand and price.

India has become one of the top renewable energy producers globally with ambitious capacity expansion plans. The country has an installed renewable energy capacity of about 80 gigawatts (GW) and is running the world’s largest renewable energy programme, with plans to achieve 175GW by 2022 and 500GW by 2030, as part of its climate commitments.

The government has studied what other developed economies have done to secure their energy needs amid an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-plus arrangement agreeing to extend production cuts for crude oil.

As the world’s third-largest oil consumer, India is particularly vulnerable as it imports more than 80% of its oil requirements and around 18% of its natural gas.

On the demand creation side, the plan involves providing tax credits at the retail level and state-level grants to promote usage of electric vehicles. The GST Council, chaired by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is expected to meet shortly to decide on lowering tax rates for electric vehicles to 5% from 12%.

The Union budget earlier in July also announced tax breaks for setting up mega-manufacturing plants for solar photovoltaic cells, lithium storage batteries and solar electric charging infrastructure.
India readies plan for $4 billion Tesla-scale battery storage plants
 

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Renewable energy cost in India lowest in APAC region
India has emerged as the market leader with the lowest renewable energy cost in Asia Pacific, according to a report by research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie. According to the report, India's levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) using solar photovoltaic has fallen to $38 per megawatt hour (MWh) this year, 14 per cent cheaper than coal-fired power.

LCOE represents the average revenue per unit of electricity generated that would be required to recover the costs of building and operating a generating plant during an assumed financial life and duty cycle.
Wood Mackenzie research director Alex Whitworth said India is the second-largest power market in Asia Pacific with installed power capacity of 421 gigawatts (GW) and solar capacity in the country is expected to reach 38 GW this year.

High-quality solar resources, market scale and competition have pushed solar costs down to half the level seen in many other Asia Pacific countries, he added.

The report further said Australia will see solar costs – which are already competitive against gas power - breaking through the coal-fired power price barrier.
"Solar LCOE has fallen 42 per cent in the past three years and will reach $48/MWh in 2020, beating out all fossil fuel competitors," it said.

The report said while solar costs are falling across the region, the average LCOE for wind and solar in Asia Pacific is still 29 per cent higher than coal-fired power.

By 2030, the report said, renewable power will have a discount to coal-fired power of around 17 per cent on average across the region. Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan will be the only countries with higher renewable LCOE compared to coal.

"We are living through a revolution in the costs of renewable power technology. Lower costs will boost wind and solar generation's share of the power mix from the current 6 per cent to a much higher level in coming years. This will create both opportunities and disruption in the industry," Whitworth said.
Renewable energy cost in India lowest in APAC region: Report
 
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This link between kumkum & solar cells could be the next big science breakthrough

IIT-Hyderabad researchers say dye used to convert turmeric to traditional vermillion kumkum could make solar cell manufacture cleaner, greener, cheaper.

By Sandhya Ramesh
Updated: 8 August, 2019 8:15 pm IST

Photovoltaic cells are arranged on solar panels (representational image) | Photo: Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg

Bengaluru: Researchers at IIT-Hyderabad have developed an environment-friendly method to manufacture standard solar cells, and it had been right above our nose this whole time.

The new method employs a dye used to convert turmeric to the traditional Indian vermillion (kumkum), which Hindu women wear as bindis and is crucial to rituals of the faith.

The dye serves as an alternative to silicon, whose extraction from sand is extremely expensive. Besides being good for the environment, the new process is also inexpensive as the dye — New Fuchsin (NF) — is cheaper to extract and doesn’t corrode upon exposure to water.

The study detailing the finding was published in the journal Solar Energy earlier this year.

“I got the idea during a family function where a commercially-available dye was used to turn turmeric to vermillion,” said project lead Sai Santosh Kumar Raavi, a researcher in the department of physics at IIT-Hyderabad.

“What stood out to me was that the dye functioned in water, thus removing the problem of corrosion by exposure to water and humidity,” he added, “Besides, it is very inexpensive and can be obtained over the counter.”

The manufacturing follows the standard process currently employed for third-generation thin-film energy conversion devices, called dye-sensitised solar cells (DSCC), a type of solar cells.

Like photosynthesis

The NF dye in the solar cells absorbs sunlight — much like chlorophyll in plants — and converts it to energy, like photosynthesis.

It doesn’t require high temperature and has a much smaller carbon footprint. It also doesn’t use plastic.

Other methods of manufacturing solar cells involves the use of plastics and peroxides, which are then dumped into the environment.

“DSCC manufacturing is environmentally friendlier than other processes, and the use of NF dye makes it even less damaging,” said Raavi.

“We hope private manufacturers and other researchers are able to carry forward this research and practically construct solar cells using our new method,” he added.

This link between kumkum & solar cells could be the next big science breakthrough
 

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IIT-Hyderabad develops new process to improve solar cell efficiency

Dye-sensitised solar cells hold a lot of promise because of possible cost and environmental benefits

By Sunderarajan Padmanabhan
Last Updated: Tuesday 18 June 2019


A novel process to improve the performance of Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells (DSSC) has been developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.

Dye-sensitised solar cells hold a lot of promise because of possible cost and environmental benefits. But, they have low light-to-power conversion efficiency.

The new process, published in the journal Solar Energy, promises to enhance the efficiency.

“A dye molecule absorbs the light energy in DSSC and causes electrons in the dye to jump to titania and then to the external circuit, which causes a flow of electrons, leading to a current,” said Jammalamadaka Suryanarayana, who led the research team.

The first-generation silicon-based cells with energy harvesting efficiency of about 26 per cent continue to be costly.

Second-generation thin film solar cells based on semiconductors like cadmium-telluride and cadmium-selenide have comparable efficiencies, and not much lower cost.

The third generation of dye-sensitised solar cells can significantly lower costs of solar cells while being environment-friendly. But, their efficiencies need improvement to translate to practical products.

In the study, the researchers initially tried introducing holmium oxide, a powerful paramagnetic material, into the anode of the cell and by applying external magnetic fields.

The experiment showed an enhancement in efficiency. However, application of external magnetic field can be power-consuming because electromagnets themselves require energy for their functioning.

The team consequently replaced holmium oxide with iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles since it produced a magnetic field internally. The result was as good. (India Science Wire)

IIT-Hyderabad develops new process to improve solar cell efficiency
 

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Towards low cost energy harvesting from indoor light

India’s search for low cost alternative energy revealed a new star at The National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST).

With the support of the Department of Science and Technology, The NIIST researchers have developed an indigenous semi-automatic fabrication unit for manufacturing dye sensitized solar cell (DSC) based modules.

The entire equipment which was developed by the CSIR-NIIST partnering with Elixir Technologies, Bangalore helped reduce cost of fabrication equipments to more than 60% leading to true import substitution.

1565513795579.png


The fabrication process, molecules and materials were optimised keeping in mind end user requirements and applications thereby developing international competency in this photovoltaic sector. It is installed at CSIR-NIIST and has been selected on PMOs high priority implementation category.

DSCs contain synthetic dyes and harvests light by mimicking photsysthesis. Their advantage lies in their ability to generate power from low levels of exposure to light including indoor lights like CFl, LED etc.

The cells are easy to integrate to a variety of substrates including glass, metal and plastic and have high power conversion efficiency at indoor, ambient or diffused intensities. The efficiency is also independent of angle of incidence, intensity and nature of incident light.

The cell can be used in powering IoT smart devices, smart meters, water and energy management, smart parking, self-powered sensors, portable devices like those integrated in phones, tablets, mobile charging stations, backpack, in clothes and also solar power windows or aesthetically beautiful power producing glass windows.

By contributing towards smart agriculture, energy, urban and water management in a more environmentally friendly way the initiative will lead to the improvement in quality of life along with economic and industrial growth.

Experts predict that by 2020, there will be around 50 billion connected smart devices in the internet of things (IoT) domain which will be powered by batteries. Considering a 3-year lifespan, there will be more than 900 million battery replacements per year which eclipses the benefits of IoT sensors due to additional cost for monitoring and replacing these batteries. In addition, replacing the batteries/extending its life cycle can tremendously reduce the carbon foot print caused by its disposal.

1565513845820.png


In this rapidly changing scenario, conventional solar technologies may not be a suitable choice for indoor environments. This is where the unique advantages of dye sensitized cell(DSCs) which is an efficient third generation indoor light harvesting technology, become extremely important.By developing indoor light harvesting photovoltaic cells, self-powered sensors can be realized and the battery life can be extended. With indigenous manufacturing of panels by working with an industry the technology can cater to a paradigm shift in low cost self-powered smart devices for future smart cities which are environmental friendly.

India needs to develop expertise in manufacturing production equipment for photovoltaic technologies. The country had been depending on technologies elsewhere and was importing them at a high cost. The NIIST fabrication unit has addressed this gap to a great extent and at a much lower cost.

Towards low cost energy harvesting from indoor light | Department Of Science & Technology
 

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Novel selenium-graphene catalyst for fuel cells

By Shubashree Desikan
June 15, 2019 16:31 IST

Right chemistry: A small amount of selenium and high amount of graphene, treated right, presented the group with a useful and cheap catalyst.

This catalyst provides a cheap and effective alternative to platinum which is often used in fuel cells

Modern energy technology, for example fuel cells which are used commercially in hydrogen fuel–based cars, require good catalysts that are efficient as well as cost-effective. Now, a multi-institutional team from India has developed a selenium-graphene–based catalyst which is more efficient, costs less and also remains stable for longer than the usual platinum based catalysts. The institutes involved in the work are: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Hyderabad (TIFR-H), University of Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Thiruvananthapuram. The research has been published in the journal ACS: Applied Energy Materials.

Normally, fuel cells use expensive platinum-like elements. “These expensive metal-based technologies perform excellently for initial few cycles, but then get degraded in performance due to many reasons,” explains T.N. Narayanan of TIFR-H, the corresponding author. As a result, there is a need to change this part of the fuel cell routinely.

The oxygen reduction reaction is a key step in the functioning of the fuel cell. Graphene by itself is a “poor” catalyst of this reaction. In the sense that it involves reduction of oxygen in two steps, each of which consume two electrons. This is not very useful either for fuel cells or metal-air batteries.

Platinum is often used to catalyse this reaction. As a substitute, the group developed the catalyst with selenium and graphene. “Graphene modified with selenium atoms in very low amounts can perform like platinum in a demonstrated reaction,” Dr. Narayanan clarifies.

While neither selenium nor graphene can do the trick by themselves, the combination works efficiently. “When you do the right chemistry together with small amount of selenium with high amount of carbon containing graphene, you end up with a very useful catalyst, which is very cheap too,” he adds.

Poisoning-resistant

Methanol fuel cells, a common form of fuel cell used, suffer from a “poisoning” effect. This is a part of the process where the methanol reaches the negative electrode and coats it, so that the electrode becomes ineffective after some cycles. This is especially problematic when expensive catalysts like platinum are used, as they often are. “We found that the catalyst we have developed has a high tolerance [to poisoning] while platinum got affected,” says Dr Narayanan.

The concept of single-atom catalyst – that category into which this catalyst falls – is not new. But earlier concepts had used heavy metals such as platinum, palladium and gold. Using selenium is a novel idea mooted by this group.

“Such direct water converting oxygen reduction reaction catalyst has enormous applications in other fields too, such as metal-air battery. It is ongoing research for the development of high energy density devices in batteries. This will be far better than the existing lithium ion-based battery,” he says.

Novel selenium-graphene catalyst for fuel cells
 

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IIT Madras registers initial success with iron ion battery

By R. Prasad
August 10, 2019 19:23 IST

Viable alternative? Iron ion battery has 55-60% of the lithium ion battery’s performance, says Ramaprabhu Sundara (right).

The iron ion battery is cost-effective and can store a high amount of energy

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras researchers have for the first time fabricated a rechargeable iron ion battery using mild steel as the anode. The iron ion battery is cost-effective and the amount of energy that can be stored in the battery is also high.

While lithium ions are the charge carriers in lithium ion battery, the Fe2+ ions perform that function in the case of iron ion battery.

With the world turning its attention to electric vehicles, the focus is on developing batteries that are cheaper. With no lithium reserves in India and shortage of lithium reserves in the world, the stress is on developing rechargeable batteries of comparable performance using materials other than lithium. And this is where the work of IIT Madras gains importance.

The team led by Ramaprabhu Sundara from the institute’s Department of Physics demonstrated the performance of an iron ion battery for up to 150 cycles of charging and discharging. With 54% capacity retention at the end of 50 cycles of charging and discharging, the battery display good stability. The results were published in the journal Chemical Communications.

When fabricated under controlled conditions, the amount of energy that can be drawn from the iron ion battery is 220 Wh per kg, which is 55-60% of lithium ion battery’s performance. The energy density of lithium ion battery is around 350 Wh per kg.

Favourable results

“We can fabricate the battery under ambient conditions too. Under such conditions, we get nearly 40% of lithium ion battery’s performance,” says Prof. Ramaprabhu. “The battery can also be cycled at high current densities so that energy can be drawn at a faster rate from the battery.”

“Iron has favourable physico-chemical properties like lithium,” he says. The redox potential of iron ion is higher than lithium ion and the radius of the Fe2+ ion is nearly the same as that of the lithium ion. “These two favourable properties of iron have been overlooked for so many years. And that’s the reason why we don’t have iron ion rechargeable batteries,” Prof. Ramaprabhu says.

In pure iron, the easy removal of iron ions from the anode and their reinsertion, which is an essential mechanism in battery operation, is not possible. However, small amount of carbon present in mild steel facilitates this process.

“Iron is more stable during the charging process and therefore prevents short-circuiting of the batteries. Thus, when compared with the popular lithium metal-based batteries, we are able to cut down the cost and make it safer to handle,” says Sai Smruti Samantaray a co-author of the paper and a PhD student at IIT Madras.

Different cathode

In iron ion battery, vanadium pentoxide is used as the cathode. Vanadium pentoxide was chosen as it has a layered structure with very large spacing between the layers.

“The large inter-layer spacing in vanadium pentoxide allows iron ions to easily move in and bind to the interlayers of the cathode and also easily get detached and move back to the anode,” says Ajay Piriya who is a PhD student at IIT Madras and the first author of the paper. “Vanadium pentoxide is already in use as a cathode in multivalent ion batteries.”

Finally, a different electrolyte was used — ether-based electrolyte containing dissolved iron perchlorate. “We tried different electrolytes including conventional ones and also a combination of different electrolytes. But we got the best result with ether-based solvent containing dissolved iron perchlorate. The iron perchlorate behaves like an ion-conducting medium between the anode and cathode,” says Ms. Samantaray.

Improving performance

The team is now focused on further improving the performance of the iron ion battery. Since the electrolyte cannot be changed, the researchers are trying out different cathode materials.

“We are trying out different metal oxides to increase the amount of iron ions that can bind to the cathode. When more iron ions bind to the cathode, more energy can be stored in the battery leading to improved performance,” says Ms. Piriya.

“We are currently working on other kinds of battery electro-chemistry using iron as one of the electrodes. We are also trying to improve the stability of the battery,” he says.

IIT Madras registers initial success with iron ion battery