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Tapping solar energy at homes



D. Selvaraj, former Deputy General Manager, Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency.

In a country that has about 300 sunny days in a year, tapping solar energy should help houses free themselves from power cuts.

Solar energy can be used for several applications, says D. Selvaraj, former Deputy General Manager of Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency. It can be used for home lighting, garden lighting, water heating, and in lanterns and power plants. Solar energy can be tapped either for photovoltaic application or thermal application. For lighting purposes, the photovoltaic modules are used. The modules are still expensive in the country. Thermal application is used in water heaters and air heating systems. The conversion efficiency is high in this system.

Mr. Selvaraj says solar water heaters and solar lights are finding increasing use at Indian homes. In Karnataka, 25 paise per unit is given as rebate in electricity charges if solar water heater is installed at home. In Uttaranchal, Rs. 50 a month is given for use of solar water heaters. In West Bengal, the Government gives an incentive of 40 paise a unit or maximum Rs. 80 a month. In Thane, 10 per cent rebate on property tax is given to those who install solar water heaters. Though Tamil Nadu and some other States have made solar water heater installation mandatory to get building plan approval, implementation of the norm needs to be strengthened. The local body staff should be trained on solar heater installations.

Managing Director of Cascade A. Mahesh says the Union Government should expedite release of subsidy for solar water heater purchase. This will encourage a larger number of consumers to buy the solar product.

Solar water heaters are usually placed on the terrace of a building, preferably facing South, and a pipeline should be given from the terrace to the bathroom. The provision should be provided while constructing the building. In the case of solar lighting, the solar module (photovoltaic cell) is placed on the terrace, the battery inside the house, and the lights at the required spots in the building. A variety of solar lights are available in the market. Solar water heaters can be custom-made for multi-storeyed buildings so that they can be placed in a suitable location that benefits all houses in the structure, adds Mr. Mahesh. Architects, builders, and solar product manufacturers should jointly evolve different designs and ways of using solar energy at homes, says Mr. Selvaraj.

President of the Coimbatore chapter of Indian Plumbing Association A. Gopinath says research activities are on for solar thermal energy conversion for different purposes. This will especially benefit corporates and institutions that consume electricity heavily for air-conditioning.

M. SOUNDARIYA PREETHA

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