Category Archives: R&D in Solar Energy

Advanced String Monitoring System of today

What happens when a module fails in a 1-megawatt photovoltaic system, bringing down a 3-kilowatt string?

If the monitoring system tracks production for each of the two 500-kilowatt inverters, the loss of output will only represent 0.6 percent of a 500-kilowatt array’s capacity — virtually impossible to detect, especially when pyranometers commonly used in utility-scale PV plants measure solar irradiance with a +/- 2 percent uncertainty (or more). Even comparing the output of both inverters would hardly allow detection of the fault: inverters measure power output with a relatively high uncertainty (typically +/- 1 percent to +/- 5 percent).

Arguably, even multiple string failures could go unnoticed until the next inspection when maintenance technicians perform systematic string testing.

In order to quickly detect such failures and minimize the associated energy losses, some PV plants are equipped with string monitoring equipment. This consists of “smart combiners” collecting current (and sometimes voltage) for a string or a small group of strings, and sending this data to the monitoring system where some software analyzes the information and identifies low production string conditions.

String monitoring is a common practice in most European markets, along with string inverter designs for PV systems, which intrinsically provide the ability to monitor at the string level, since each inverter is a string or a small group of strings. In a recently published report about global PV monitoring markets, GTM Research and SoliChamba Consulting estimated that 100 percent of new utility-scale PV plants in Germany in 2012 were string-monitored, along with 95 percent of large commercial systems and 85 percent of small commercial ones (including plants with string inverters).

In other parts of the world like the U.S. and Japan, however, very few PV plants are string-monitored, even in the utility-scale segment. In those markets, the dominant perception is that string monitoring significantly increases the initial cost of the PV system without providing enough yield increase to justify such investment. No independent study has either proved or disproved this theory, and opinions may vary between EPC firms and project developers.

In order to better understand the logic behind this different approach, let’s examine the economics of a broken “3-kilowatt string”. Assuming that the average annual yield is 1,500 kWh/ kWp and the faulty string goes undetected for six months (until the next inspection), the lost production would amount to 2,250 kilowatt-hours. For a 2006-built German plant benefiting from the 40 euro cents feed-in tariff, this would represent a $1,200 loss. For a 1-megawatt system, the additional cost of string monitoring equipment ranges from $10,000 to $15,000, which is the equivalent of $500 to $750 annually over a twenty-year time span (excluding financing costs and installation, which is usually part of overall EPC budget). In these conditions, an average of one string failure per year would justify the investment. For a U.S. plant with a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) price of 10 cents, however, the same production loss would only be worth $225, so it would take two to four annual string failures on the same 1-megawatt array to justify the investment. This simple calculation goes a long way toward explaining the gap in string monitoring adoption rates between Germany and the U.S.

In the past few years, a new DC array monitoring practice emerged in America, referred to as “zone monitoring” or “sub-array monitoring.”

By collecting sub-array data from the master combiner, zone monitoring provides an intermediate level of granularity for issue detection and diagnostics, at a much lower upfront cost than string monitoring ($3,500 to $5,000 for a 1-megawatt plant). With this approach, the ability to detect subtle issues is more limited, and the guilty string cannot be specifically identified — it is only possible to single out the sub-array that is underperforming because of it. In the case of our previous example, if each 500-kilowatt master combiner includes 15 sub-arrays (for a 33-kilowatt individual capacity), the loss of a 3-kilowatt string represents a 10 percent reduction of the affected sub-array’s capacity — an easily detectable anomaly. GTM Research and SoliChamba Consulting estimate the adoption of DC monitoring in the U.S. in 2012 at 65% in the utility-scale segment, 25% in the large commercial segment, and 15% in small commercial. Most of it is believed to be zone monitoring.

As often in the solar world, the ultimate decision to adopt a technology lies in the hands of the investors and their technical advisors. In Europe, these firms often mandate string monitoring for large-scale plants, and will consider a PV system less valuable if it does not include such monitoring capability. In the U.S., few solar investors have a strong opinion on this topic, and independent engineering firms that validate the production estimates used in financial calculations do not consider any difference in output whether a plant is a monitored at the inverter, sub-array or string level. In such circumstances, project developers and EPC firms are unlikely to invest in string monitoring technology.

Over time, as more data becomes available about module and string failure rates, we can expect the choice of monitoring approach to become less cultural and more financial.



R&D Conclave on New and Renewable Energy-Prospects for Cross-Cutting Technologies


On 9-10th August, 2012, in an attempt to give a boost to new and innovative technologies in the field of new and renewable energy applications,MNRE headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah organized a two-day “R&D Conclave on New and Renewable Energy-Prospects for Cross-Cutting Technologies” at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah said that the vision of MNRE Energy is to develop new and renewable energy technologies, process, materials, components, sub-systems, product and services at par with international specifications, standards and performance parameters, and deploy such indigenously developed and manufactured products and services in furtherance of the national goals of energy security and energy independence. A large broad-spectrum programme covering the entire range of new and renewable energies is implemented in the country.

On cost reduction, Dr.Chaidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India gave the example of polysilicon produced at economical cost will be critical to the development of solar power in India.

Shri B.K.Chaturvedi, Member (Energy), Planning Commission said that the Planning Commission is supporting faster development and deployment of renewable energy technologies in the country. MNRE has sponsored about Rs 525 crore for 169 R&D projects in the area of solar energy, bio-energy and hydrogen and fuel cells. He said that renewables added 14,660 MW power during the 11th Plan and they will become more important in future.

Shri Gireesh Pradhan, Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said that the outlay for R&D activities in the Ministry per year is presently around Rs.600 crore which is expected to be doubled in the 12th Five Year Plan. He was of the view that research should be directed towards application and deployment. Only then will renewable energy improve the lives of people.
The two-day Conclave provided an insight into possible projects to be taken up in the 12th Plan.
was attended by eminent Scientist and Technologists from all over the country.  In all, about 19 Scientists presented the outcomes and results of their projects. The discussion during the session focused on solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, new fuels and bio-energy technologies


The Conclave concluded with a panel discussion under the Chairmanship of Dr.R.Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. The panelists commended the efforts of MNRE to promote R&D in new and renewable energy and the achievements thereof by the respective project investigators. They mentioned that the workshop was timely and recommended that R&D efforts need to be scaled up along with industry`s involvement. Dr.R. Chidambaram said to encourage the basic research while giving priority to directed research. Adding he also stated that R&D in storage technology should be vigorously pursued. The Secretary emphasised to prioritise the areas for directed research and partnership with industry in view of restricted supply of funds.


Solar energy a big hope in meeting energy demand in future-Anil Kakodkar

Solar energy has been quoted by Anil Kakodkar the Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India and former director of the BARC, as future source of energy supplying the ever-growing demand for energy.

Kakodkar was here for detailed discussions with the IIT-J for promotion of solar energy research by experimentation and demonstration of different technologies and the future course of action. It may be recalled that IIT-J has set up a centre for excellence to further the research and experimentation on the solar energy in western Rajasthan and has set up a solar thermal plant there. Kakodkar said that after developing a demonstration facility of the solar thermal set-up, we will start research on it.

Mr Kakodkar said “The need of energy will always exceed the supply and for this we will have to keep looking for alternative sources of energy”.

“And solar energy is a big hope in meeting this ever growing demand of energy,” he said. “And solar energy is a big hope in meeting this ever-growing need of energy”, he added.

A cluster of R&D labs for solar thermal research will be established in the park with the help of the research grant obtained from the MNRE. A 200-acres land has been earmarked on its campus for creating a solar park, comprising various technologies under one roof.

There is an urgent need felt for capacity-building and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in IIT-Jodhpur, so an international centre for solar energy technologies is being planned with technical assistance and grant from ADB.


MNRE to promote the concept of Solar cities in each state

MNRE has now started promoting the concept of solar cities in India. It is now encouraging the local bodies of the urban cities to prepare road map as a guide in converting those cities into solar cities. The implementation of solar cities will clear all the energy problems of the urban cities by consolidating all the efforts of the ministry. promotions in the scheme would include installation of solar water heating systems in hostels, homes, hospitals, industries and hotels; installing solar PV systems in the areas of demonstration; creating “Akshya Urja Shops” along with designing solar buildings. It will also promote industrial and urban biomass to energy projects under this program.

All kinds of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass will be used as energy projects to be installed in enrgy efficient manner covering the energy demands of the city. The cities with a population of 50,000 to 50 lakhs will be considered for this programme will special relaxation to hilly states, union territories and islands. In the 11th Plan of MNRE at least 60 cities were selected for such programme with at least one city in each state.

The local governments will be making the master plan of the system and will also be responsible for providing institutional arrangements for it. The master plan will include the base line of energy consumption of 2008, energy demands forecasting of 2013 and 2018, sector wise strategies and the plan of action for implementing the renewable energy projects to minimize the fossil fuel consumption of the city. The financial assistance to such cities has been decided to be around Rs. 50 Lakhs per city depending upon the population of the city.

(Source: Times Of India)

Hugh boost to the renewable energy inverter market with an estimate installation of 290GW till 2017

Some good news for the renewable energy inverter manufacturers and suppliers as the market for the inverters is on a boom as given by a report of Pike Research. According to the report the market of inverters for renewable energy market was $7.2Billion in 2011 and it is expected that the gross sale of inverters will be more than doubled crossing $19Billion in the next 5 years.

According to research analyst Dexter Gauntlett ” people have seen a vast drop in the prices of the solar modules affecting the market so avoid that situation to happen with the inverter market manufacturers have to reduce the cost along with increasing the functionality and should differentiate themselves from others. Big manufacturers such as SMA, Power-One, Satcon, KACO, Fronius have advantages of the size and their market reach but even the new companies and small-scale companies are coming up really fast with new innovations and technological advancements.”

As the report suggests Europe will continue to be the global leader in the installed inverter capacities for the next several years with 47% of all the renewable energy inverter capacity installed through 2017, led by solar PV inverters. Also around 72GW of inverters will be installed in Asia-Pacific in comparison to 66GW in North America. It means nearly 290GW  capacity of inverters will be installed worldwide for four primary technologies – solar PV, stationary fuel cells, small wind power and vehicle to grid enabled vehicles int he next 5 years.

(Source: Solar Industry Magazine)

Young innovator into solar

This is the story of a recent graduate by name of Yashraj Khaitan from UC Berkeley.  He formed Gram Power, the venture along with a batch mate Jacob Dickinson which enables villagers to produce and store renewable energy. It helps them integrate and generate energy out of biomass, solar or wind on-site.

The jugaad technology of India highly impressed him. He first of all met a jugaad innovator in Bharatpur district who have made a vehicle out of the rubbish. He then experienced the problem in education of the village children due to power cuts.

This was enough to fuel their mind for coming up with their own energy solutions for low income consumers.

The solution by them cost less than that of their equivalent expenditure on kerosene. Consumers pay Rs 75 per month under the pay-as-you-go model for standard grid connection instead of spending Rs 200 on kerosene and cell phone charging. “Our smart grid site is the only village in the entire area that is receiving reliable on demand power 24×7,” says Khaitan. The service includes innovative metering and monitoring devices that allows people to purchase power in prepaid schemes.

The company is mentored by Eric Brewer, vice-president of infrastructure at Google and a professor at UC Berkeley. It has not only generated grassroots employment but made power affordable, allowing consumers to use their disposable incomes to purchase power.

Khaitan pitched his company at various business competitions in the US and won many of them. has given grants to Khaitan and also helped him in the initial stage of his project to source suppliers.

This way, the start-up raised seed capital of $80,000 in the form of grants from, Intel Corp, the world’s largest maker of computer chips and UC Berkeley.

Last year NASA selected Gram Power’s technology among the top-10 cleantech innovations from around the world. One of the attendees at the conference was a Swiss company, which was so impressed by their work that it made an angel investment of around Rs 5 crore in Gram Power this year.

The list of its projects executed includes powering 10 villages in Rajasthan. It is also looking to form strong partnerships to increase access to their technology through state and central renewable energy ministries.


The target is to deploy 20 self-owned smart micro grids with 250 KWp of generation, over the next 12 months.

It is also working on a contract with the Rajasthan government to operate, manage, and make around 80 sustainable solar microgrids in rural Rajasthan. Gram Power is now betting big to eliminate power theft, lower payment collection expenses, and intelligently integrate different forms of renewable energy generation with the national grid. This really encouraging for industry for the scope and need of renewable in very near future.


(Author: Arif)

(Source: Economic times)

Booming solar market expects grid –parity in very near future

Our capacity increased to 940 MW in 2011-2012 from just 20MW in 2010-2011. But why is such a sudden change? It is because the component which consumes half the cost of projects i.e. –panels, has cut down it’s price by 30% in  last year. It already showed a decline of 80% in the past 5 years. According to a CRISIL report “Capital costs fell by 30% from a year ago to Rs 10 crore per MW (megawatt) by the end of 2011. The fall was driven by 50% drop in prices of solar PV modules, which account for almost half the capital costs of a PV project. The sharp fall in capital costs has improved the returns from the projects that were commissioned in FY12”.

A latest report by Pew Charitable Trust says that the flow of private investments into the country’s solar sector has already seen a seven-fold jump to $4.2 billion in 2011.

But one crucial analysis from all this is that grid parity is very nearby, i.e. the cost of power from solar is on a par with the cost of power from new coal, wind and hydro-based plants. “If we compare the cost of power from new coal-based plants, it will be at par with that of solar. If one takes into account the total duration of the power purchasing agreement, which is 25 years, grid-parity is already there. Solar power needs only a one-time investment in the form of land and PV panels. Its fuel, which is sunshine, is free unlike coal where price will head only northwards,” said Gaurav Sood, MD, Solairedirect.

The reason for declining panel prices are heavy subsidies by China to its domestic manufacturers & recent reduction of subsidy to the sector by Germany, the largest solar power generator in the world.

But this has pressurised our module manufacturer, to compete with Chinese markets. This subsidy by China has already swallowed many leading global manufacturers such as Solyndra (US), Q Cells and Solar Millennium (both in Germany) which have filed for bankruptcy.

But the funding banks are still awaited for becoming open to solar sector. They are still reticent about still rock-bottom tariffs and higher debt levels. “We are keen to assist solar projects as they are pollution free. But we would prefer a lower debt-equity ratio in the range of 60:40,” said B K Batra, executive director, IDBI Bank. Other banks now financing for this sector are US EXIM bank, ADB and IFC


(Author: Rochit)

Now generate electricity with a strike of paint!!!!

I was just going through some latest inventions and this is what i found in one of the websites. Prof. Paul Dastoor has invented this new SOLAR PAINT”, which makes it so convenient to utilize that power of sun without much investment. The link to the technology about the Solar Paint which shows the video of how it is done has been embedded in the post.

Solar Paint is an environmentally friendly solar cell technology that will allow every household in Australia to generate their own electricity, affordably and sustainably.
The invention involves the development of a completely printable organic solar cell based on semiconducting polymer nano particles dispersed in water. Essentially these tiny particles in suspension are a water-based paint, which can be printed or coated over large areas. In the first instance these coatings will be put onto plastic sheets that can be placed on the roof of a house. However, in the longer term it will be possible to directly paint a roof or building surface.

(Author: Suman Srivastava)

(Source: ABC,


Solar to Help the Blind – A New Breakthrough

Using tiny solar-panel-like cells surgically placed underneath the retina, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a system that may someday restore sight to people who have lost vision because of certain types of degenerative eye diseases.

This device — a new type of retinal prosthesis — involves a specially designed pair of goggles, which are equipped with a miniature camera and a pocket PC that is designed to process the visual data stream. The resulting images would be displayed on a liquid crystal micro display embedded in the goggles, similar to what’s used in video goggles for gaming. Unlike the regular video goggles, though, the images would be beamed from the LCD using laser pulses of near-infrared light to a photovoltaic silicon chip — one-third as thin as a strand of hair — implanted beneath the retina.

Electric currents from the photodiodes on the chip would then trigger signals in the retina, which then flow to the brain, enabling a patient to regain vision. “It works like the solar panels on your roof, converting light into electric current,” said Daniel Palanker, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology and one of the paper’s senior authors. “But instead of the current flowing to your refrigerator, it flows into your retina.”


(Author: Mohd. Arif)

(Source: Science Daily)