Solar PV long march ahead

If countries are dreaming of energy source mix with solar PV to mitigate carbon foot prints, it is a day dream. Countries have a long way to go to make solar PV affordable to common man.National solar mission may get derailed as banks hesitate to give loans for its high risk projects states a special report  in the recent edition of Down to Earth ( March 1-15, 2011).A mission without financial support is created. Newspapers, weekly magazines and all other print media talk about availability of large funds for solar power. The numbers run into crores!! Where are these funds? If funds are not available within the country under the solar mission scheme, how can entrepreneurs expect grants/loans from foreign financial institutions or investors?  The solar PV needs a break-though. Until then the unit cost of solar PV will stay high. The ground reality is different. The type of data required for the financial institutions to release funds are not available. Solar PV  is not just to keep a solar panel and generate electric power. There is science behind it and handful of entrepreneurs know about it!! The rest go with the tide and jump into the bandwagon. This is true with other non-conventional energy sources as well!!

Solar PV and wind are very popular in Sub-Sahara countries, although the unit cost is much higher compared to thermal. For example, the levelized grid supplied cost of solar PV is about 16 to 50 US cents in areas with good net work connectivity while the cost escalates to one dollar per unit in remote areas in Ethiopia.   Diesel generated power costs little over 70 US cents per unit. Thus diesel and solar PV are on par with each other as for as cost is concerned. The only difference is diesel has to be transported from the nearest sea port Djibouti, which is several hundreds of kilometers away from Ethiopia.

Compared to solar PV, geothermal power in Ethiopia is very competitive to all the renewable and with an estimated resources of 60000 MWe spread over the entire East African Rift  valley.The Aluto Lungano geothermal field alone is capable of generating 500 MWe. Unit cost of geothermal power is about seven US cents. The advantage here is to have local grid systems that can supply power to clusters of rural areas. Small geothermal power plants that can generate 5 to 10 MWe are most suitable and cost effective in the entire rift valley.  A 5 MWe geothermal power plant may need only one acre of land (1 acre is equal to 4047 sq. m or 43200 sq. ft). This is far less compared to the land requirement of solar. In future, with the hot dry rock technology taking shape, power can be generated in everyones back yard! Lets hope that this will happen before the next young generation retires!

Read the latest World Bank Policy paper WPS 5845 an 2012 “A Review of Solar Energy Markets, Economics and Policies”