Technology Bringing About A Paradigm Shift In Solar Industry: Kunwer Sachdev, Founder, MD, Su-Kam
As the demand for electricity increases having access to low-cost power supply is paramount. The yearly rise of electricity tariff as opposed to the plummeting price of solar is one of the main reasons fuelling the growth of solar power
In the last five years or so, the solar industry has grown rapidly in India, and continues to grow, given the targets of the government for 2022 and 2030. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Kunwer Sachdev, Founder and MD of Su-Kam, discusses the solar industry, the economics behind it, technology and the government targets for the solar industry. Edited excerpts:
Why do the economics of renewable energy favour the rise of solar power?
As the demand for electricity increases having access to low-cost power supply is paramount. The yearly rise of electricity tariff as opposed to the plummeting price of solar is one of the main reasons fuelling the growth of solar power. What is drawing people towards solar energy is that it is a great way to save money. Although the initial cost of setting up a solar system is high but the money is easily recovered as the user starts producing electricity significantly reducing dependence on conventional electricity. With huge reduction in the electricity bill, the user starts saving from day one, enabling him to recover the ROI within just a few years’ time. Moreover, since the average life of a solar system is 20-25 years, the user not only makes savings but is also protected from unpredictable electricity prices in the future. Moreover, solar energy has great environmental benefits; creating electricity from solar energy negates the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. That is where renewable energy comes into the picture as it is the only alternative to clean and cheap source of electricity. As the storage system is making huge technological advancements, solar system is becoming even more viable.
Can the targets of 2022 by the government, to add 175 GW of renewable energy be achieved?
This target can be achieved only if more and more establishments and households go solar. For this, the government should provide subsidy by local state electricity board on generation instead on the installation of a solar system. Though subsidies are available, the government needs to make it more easily accessible and encourage people to use it.
What are the obstacles for the rise of the solar industry?
Solar industry has the potential of becoming very big in India. The country is blessed with ample sunshine throughout the year. Solar industry is set to boom only if more and more establishments and households go solar. At the moment, the government rooftop policy is a very flawed one. The whole process is very cumbersome for the common man. Although the net-metering policy is in place, lack of adequate financial incentives acts as an impediment. It may take 3-4 months from the date of application to receiving a grant of connectivity even for a residential rooftop solar system. There are further shared approvals and clearances between multiple departments such as the regulatory commission, state nodal agencies, discoms, urban local bodies, etc, which may cause delays. The process of obtaining clearances should be made easy, clear and hassle-free.
Another major obstacle that the solar industry is facing is the non-availability of skilled and trained manpower. Solar companies like us have taken matters into our own hands by imparting training to employees in-house.
Sub-standard Chinese products flooding the Indian market is also posing a threat to the industry as these products are available at 10-20% cheaper price.
How is technology changing the trend of solar power?
Technology is bringing about a paradigm shift in the solar industry. The industry is making great strides in terms of technology, they are constantly working on new technologies and products within the solar space to offer innovative solutions to Institutional, industrial, corporate and home consumers. At Su-Kam, for instance, all our products leverage the Internet of Things along with Artificial Intelligence and can be controlled even through the mobile phone. We’ve introduced innovative products like Hybrid Solar System that can work as both off-grid and on-grid system. Another revolutionary product we’ve built is Brainy S, a solar UPS that can run all kinds of sensitive appliances. This brilliant product combines the features of Online UPS and Solar Power Conditioning Unit to give reliable and steady power to your computers, modems, servers and other sensitive appliances. Our Solar Conversion Kit which is based on DSP technology can be connected with any existing HUPS/inverter and convert it into a solar hybrid powered system. It’s built -in artificial intelligence gives preference to solar power over main supply to either charge the batteries or to run the connected load, hence utilizing the solar power generated optimally. Vast improvement in solar technology is enabling us to reap the maximum benefit of solar energy while making it extremely user friendly. As we’re making huge advancement in storage technology smaller residential systems of 1 Kw to 5 Kw Solar system is going to see a huge boom in the future. Even smaller systems of 100W to 500W will be in demand as there is less space so people can put a single panel and generate electricity with it.
How is the inverter segment of Su-Kam integrating sustainability into their practice?
Inverter still has a lot of demand in India and it will remain like this for many more years to come. The power situation in India is a political issue rather than a power availability issue. Every government that has come and gone has promised the same thing. The irony is that there is already 24 x7 electricity in India, we have surplus electricity, the only thing that’s stopping us from getting electricity is because power plants are not working to their full capacity due to political issues. As the world is turning to renewable sources of energy like solar, many people do not realise that the same inverter technology is used in the normal inverter and solar inverter. The only thing that has to be done is replace the battery in a regular inverter with a solar- powered one. Inverter converts DC electricity stored in the battery into AC electricity to run appliances. The same thing happens in solar power; since sun produces DC electricity, the inverter converts it into usable AC electricity. With only a small tweaking, a normal inverter works as a solar inverter. Su-Kam is the pioneer of inverter technology so it is not very difficult for us to make minor changes in our inverters to convert it into a solar inverter.
What does the future of renewable energy look like?
The falling cost of solar energy in the last five years along with the falling price of solar panels, due to technology advances, is making solar even more viable. As solar is making great progress now, the government needs to provide a special push to increase installations of rooftop solar. As battery technology improves and the cost of storage drops rapidly, solar energy has a bright future.