Solar energy production has regained momentum in Kerala. Anert's '1 Kilowatt Rooftop Solar Power Plants Programme' has reached 7,000 houses. The first rooftop power plant in the state (96 kilowatt) was inaugurated in Attappady recently. The KSEB's offer to draw electricity from panels with a capacity of 2 to 50 kilowatts to the main line has also made solar energy attractive. This would save the cost of a battery. KSEB has also launched a programme to popularise the solar version of inverters that have become ubiquitous in Kerala.
Kerala is estimated to have 20 lakh inverters. They are designed and manufactured with locally available technology. It has its pros and cons. Many inverters have poor efficiency. They will play havoc with electronic equipment. They keep on drawing power from the electricity lines as they are always switched on. Solar inverters will benefit all. Things get only better if the KSEB doles out some benefits.
Several government institutions and private agencies have come forward to install solar farms with a capacity of 100 kilowatts or above. The Cochin International Airport Limited has become a model. Kerala has started its solar run though it is nowhere near states such as Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Companies in Madhya Pradesh are ready to distribute solar power for Rs 5.5 per unit. Such low rates may not be feasible in Kerala, but solar energy is expected to become cheaper in the state.
The Kerala government and the KSEB have to take note of some factors though. The installation of rooftop solar power plants has to be expanded. It will be made possible only by coordinating existing projects. These projects have been installed individually. Those who have installed solar panels as part of the Anert programme cannot sell to the KSEB. They will have to spend more when it is time to replace batteries four or five years down the lane.
Things can change if necessary alterations are made to the kilowatt units set up on rooftops to enable them to supply to the KSEB. The inverter will have to be changed. A new metre will have to be installed. But this will save the trouble of replacing the battery every four years.
A lack of batteries in KSEB's 1 to 50 kilowatt solar system is another drawback. What is the point if uninterrupted power supply cannot be ensured after spending so much? You need to have a small battery and reserve.
Though Kerala is unlikely to have massive solar projects like in Madhya Pradesh, the state is making progress. Big projects are coming up in open spaces, canals and reservoirs.
We have got a good head start but the lower rungs of the KSEB are not very excited about solar power projects. The engineers who have passed B Tech 20 years ago may not be well-versed in new technology. They should be trained in it to develop interest in solar power.
Another hurdle is the delay in proceedings. These are designed in a way to cause inconvenience to individuals and institutions starting solar power projects. The government should form a single-window system to fast-track the proceedings.