In the recent times it has become a fad to associate every single product as eco-friendly and green. In this process we also see a lot of products being launched with a “solar” tag – Television, … (some sample). A recent post by Sri. Piyush Goyal on installation of solar panels on trains triggered my urge to write this blog.
Reference link: https://cleantechnica.com
On moving body (vehicles, train, boat, plane), it makes sense to install solar panels only if the following condition are met:
- Source of energy cannot be from grid when the body is in motion
- The total cost of Solar energy is less than that of the alternate energy source
- The solar energy can provide a reasonable share of energy
Let us take the case of first rule. The logic of this rule is that cost of power from grid would be the lowest possible cost of power. So, if there is access to grid power when the body is in motion, then that power would be the cheapest. Trains are a means of transport that can avail this advantage; so do trams. Vehicles on road (until the proposed technology to charge from the roads while running come up), boats and airplanes do not have this benefit.
So, when someone talks of installing solar panels on train, and if the person is Minister of Power, then it has to be pointed out that it is a wrong approach. It makes immense sense to focus on making trains electric and then create large solar power plants to feed the power to the grid. Rest is just for marketing and not with any substance. So the two Ministers (Railways and Power) must focus on installing large roof top solar grid-tie installation on railways stations, their properties; convert all railway coaches and lines to electric; encourage/invest in large solar power plants (100s of Mega watts) to increase the share of green power in our energy mix.
Of course on a very tactical approach, Sri Piyush Goyal is right given that we are stuck with diesel locomotives which will not become electric in the near term. Even for these trains the Rule 2 is doubtful since cost of power from large generators (train electric power source) might be cheaper than small solar installations (on train roof). But again Rule 3 fails here for sure.
For academic interest, the Rule 3 fails in case of vehicles on road, where the energy from sun can be barely 10-15% and hence not very attractive. However in case of boats, and specifically slow moving, public transport, all the 3 rules are met. The sun can provide 80% of energy and hence super-attractive, as was demonstrated by ADITYA, India’s first solar ferry.
In the same media one also hears many solar hyphened electrical devices, especially home equipments. Again, it makes sense for some one to create an off-grid power plant and then use a normal electric device rather than separate solar devices. So no more solar-fridge, solar-TV, solar-incubators,…The only exception are when there are situation when such a device operate in isolation and in location without grid, for example, solar water pumps for irrigation where there is no electric power.
So, enough of marketing hype on green and eco-friendly, lets separate real stuff from marketing gimmicks.
Comments are welcome.