Recently, an online solar forum was discussing potential for solar power in India; it spoke about how easy it was to satisfy India’s entire power needs by installing solar PV power on an extremely small area of the country.
Among the responses to the article, was an interesting comment, in the form of a harrowing question. Here it is;
“How does one maintain the power supply when the sun goes down?”
The question was asked, in all earnestness, and meant no malice towards anyone in the solar industry. For the solar community however, this is an important question. One that haunts the solar market and the solar business; yet seeks to address the core issue of solar energy being used to balance out the country’s energy needs. One that must be addressed; and one that may have a simple answer;
“Just like they do today…for now!!!”
Actually, this form of question is perennial to all forms of power generation.
- How does one maintain power supply from coal plants where there is no coal or without mining or polluting?
- How does one maintain power supply or even generate power from nuclear power plants when you don’t have access to nuclear material or technology, or without risking lives?
- How does one generate power or maintain power supply from dams without destroying thousands of acres of land and potentially displacing huge communities from their ancestral roots?
- How does one maintain the power supply from wind farms when the wind is not blowing?
- How does one maintain the power supply from flow of the river hydro when the river runs low or dry?
Often, the question isn’t just, Can you…but Should you?
Every other form of power generation has some limitations or negative impact associate with it. The point here is well taken that solar power generation needs solar radiation which is unavailable at night. However, once out of the urban mindset; that air conditioners are the only equipment that consume electricity, and that they are needed to sleep at night, one might be able to take a bird’s eye view of the power consumption patterns. This view clearly shows that that power consumption is much higher during the day time hours than at night. This is synchronous with power generation using solar PV, not requiring any kind of storage. At the very least this solar electricity will power up most of our daytime load.
However it is true that power is also consumed during the night; and for that, scores of companies, and many scientists are working on safe, quality and efficient solar battery technology, which like the electric vehicle, will deliver stored solar energy as and when required.
Governments have subsidized most industries at their nascent stages, in one form or another. Yet, the solar industry isn’t simply resting on handouts. It is continuously innovating newer, more efficient solar technologies while rapidly driving down costs of solar solutions.
Solar PV is definitely no magic pill; but the right way forward is to gradually expand the solar component in the energy portfolio mix, eventually eliminating the fossil power component.
Until that is achieved, the point is well taken and fosters an important discussion.
Tell us how you would address this question.