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For Cleantech ( Singapore)
By Devika Malhotra

1. Renewable Energy

Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy that is, they draw on finite resources that will
eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. In contrast, there
are many types of renewable energy resources-such as wind and solar energy-that are constantly replenished
and will never run out.
Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun. The sun's heat drives the
wind; who’s energy is captured with wind turbines. Then, the wind and the sun's heat causes water to
evaporate. When this water vapor turns into rain or snow and flows downhill into rivers or streams, its energy
can be captured using hydroelectric power. Along with the rain and snow, sunlight causes plants to grow. The
organic matter that makes up those plants is known as biomass. Biomass can be used to produce electricity,
transportation fuels, or chemicals. The use of biomass for any of these purposes is called bioenergy. Sunlight,
or solar energy, can be used directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for generating
electricity, and for hot water heating, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses.

a. How do Solar Panels work?
Solar energy is in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.
Solar panels are small, square-shaped semiconductors that are made from conductive materials such as
silicon. When sunlight strikes the solar cells, it induces chemical reactions that release the electrons, thus
generating electric current. Most rooftop solar panel cells are called photovoltaic cells which are also found in
tiny appliances like calculators. Electricity can be produced directly from photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells
are made from materials which exhibit the “photovoltaic effect” i.e. when sunshine hits the PV cell, the
photons of light excite the electrons in the cell and cause them to flow, generating electricity. The most
important components of a photovoltaic cell are the layers of the semiconductor materials that are made of
doped silicon crystals. The bottom layer of the photovoltaic cells is laden with boron that bonds with the
silicon in order to create a positive charge. The top layer is doped with phosphorus to create the negative
charge. The surface between the two layers is called the P-N junction and the movement of this surface
produces the electric field. Once sunlight hits the cells, photons knock the electrons loose on both layers.
Since the two layers come with opposite charges, it results in the flow of electron. However, the electric field
at the P-N junction prevents the flow of the energy elsewhere; thus an external circuit is necessary to provide
a path for the electrons to travel.

Solar energy does not produce any pollutants and is one of the cleanest sources of renewable energy. It
requires low maintenance and is easy to harness through solar panels. Photovoltaic systems release no
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and they don’t even need direct sunlight to produce energy; they just
need daylight and this means they can operate even during cloudy and less bright days.
There is a transformation taking place in global energy markets: Solar power, for the first time, is
becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.
Now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably,
new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data
from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

b. Types of Solar Panels

There are three types of solar panels- (i) ground mounted panels,(ii) rooftop panels and (iii) floating panels.
In a ground installation, a frame is built for your solar cells that tilts them up to an optimal angle and faces the
correct way. For example, a solar panel installed in Delhi, India would face the South (since India is in the
Northern Hemisphere) and would have an angle of 28-30 degrees. The frame can be built out of galvanized
steel or aluminum, and is attached to the ground via a concrete foundation. In many cases the frame will be a
rigid half A frame like structure. Where achieving the maximum possible efficiency is an aim (such as in
commercial or very large installations) it is possible to have half A-frames that are manually tilt adjustable, so
that in winter when the sun is lower in the sky the cells can be tilted up for greater exposure.

Typically, ground mounted solar panels are installed due to lack of available space on the roof, poor
sun exposure on your roof due to shadows or good availability of sun exposed land. There are several
advantages of having ground mounted panels installed: there is more scope and lower cost to install a sun
tracking system, the panels can be manually adjusted according to the seasons, there is more space available
on the ground then on the roof in rural settings, hence larger systems can be installed, and cells are easier to
clean and maintain. However, there are also certain disadvantages. Urban settings often do not have the
available land space for the large ground mounted panels, solid foundations and concrete footings will need
to be built to provide stability in storms and high wind and most importantly, these panels are more expensive
on installation due to cost of frame, foundation and footings.

A rooftop photovoltaic power station, or rooftop PV system, is a photovoltaic system that has its
electricity-generating solar panels mounted on the rooftop of a residential or commercial building or
structure. Solar PV modules are installed and positioned on the roof of buildings to get maximum solar
radiation. In general, the horizontal tilt of the panels may be adjusted 4 times a year: at the latitude angle in
spring and autumn, (Latitude – 15˚) in summer, and (Latitude + 15˚) in winter. Alternatively, one can choose
the angle depending upon when the power requirement is greatest. If power shortages are high in summer
and the requirement goes high due to the need of running fans, then latitude – 15˚ should be the right choice.
Another good way is to adjust angles twice a year for summer and winter seasons. The best time to adjust for
summer angle is mid March and mid September for the winter angle. For Delhi, latitude: 28˚ 38’N, the rooftop
panel angle is as follows: the summer angle will be 13˚ and the winter angle 43˚.
The energy hitting the photovoltaic modules is converted into Direct Current (DC) electricity. The DC
electricity flows through cables into inverters. These electrical devices convert DC electricity into Alternating
Current (AC) electricity which is the same type used to power the majority of loads in buildings, such as
machines, computers, lighting, A/C, etc. The AC electricity is then used throughout the facility and can in some
cases be exported back to the grid. All generated AC electricity is tracked and easily accessible by the facility

The overall efficiency of the rooftop system depends on the type of battery and inverter used in the system. It
is important to choose the right components for most effective use of Solar PV systems. “Deep Cycle”
batteries (generally lead-acid) are the best suited for a solar PV system. They last for 5 to 10 years and are
80% efficient (can reclaim 80% of energy stored in it). These batteries are also designed to provide electricity
for long periods and can discharge up to 80% of their capacity repeatedly. It is important to size the batteries
properly so that they can store sufficient power based on your needs during cloudy weather.
The efficiency of a solar cell is defined as its capability to convert a certain amount of sunlight into
electricity. Solar cells available in the market are of various efficiencies: 4%, 8%, 12%, 14% and 16%. The size
of a Solar PV module required will depend on output and efficiencies:

Floating panels are standard PV solar panels which are installed on large bodies of water such as
drinking water reservoirs, quarry lakes, irrigation canals or remediation and tailing ponds. It is a new, reliable
and cost-effective solution to turn bodies of water into solar power plants while conserving land and water
and can represent a serious alternative to ground mounted solar systems.

Recently, Europe's biggest floating solar panel array was installed on the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir
on the Thames River, London. Just over 23,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been floated on the
reservoir. The process of installation was as follows: The individual solar panels were clipped onto specially
designed air-filled floats which were assembled to form a large raft. The raft was assembled on the shore and
pushed out onto the reservoir in sections. Boats were used to position the raft’s sections, and then they were
attached to buoys on the water’s surface which are anchored to the bottom of the reservoir to keep the
installation in place. The solar PV panels on the floating array are connected via a submerged cable to
inverters onshore. A new cable will then connect into the existing Thames Water private power network at
the site. The electricity produced by the panels is carried to shore using marine cable, ensuring it is protected
from the water. The same specification is used under the ocean to connect the UK’s islands to the mainland,
and to carry electricity between the UK and the continent. There are numerous benefits in installing the
floating panel. Firstly, they are easy to install: Easy to adapt to any electrical configuration, Scalable from low
to high power generation, No tools or heavy equipment needed.

Individual Floating PV Modules 1

2. Best Solar Panel in the Indian Context

Solar power plays a dominant role in the world-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gases; it is
considered a clean energy and an efficient source of electricity. Yet several obstacles have been
undermining the expansion of this sector and many of its actors are looking for new approaches that
would make solar power more practical and commercially attractive. Given the advantages of the
different types of Solar panels (land, roof and aqua) and the diversity of India, there is a case to be
made for each of these technologies depending upon the type and geographical location of the user.

1. Metropolitan Cities:
Large metropolitan cities have a paucity of space and are typically dotted with tall skyscrapers. In such
cases (Mumbai being a prime example), land mounted panels are almost never used. Roof tops panels
on buildings are the only viable option at this point. Floating Panels, although a relatively new
technology, could be a superior alternative. Water and Power utilities in such cities often have suitable
water sources such as storage reservoirs for drinking water, irrigation water and open channel
aqueducts where floating solar panels could be installed. The government of Singapore has installed
100kWp Floating PV system on the Tenghe Resovoir. Tata Power has partnered with Australian
Company Sunengy to build the first Solar Floating Plant in Maharashtra, India using Liquid Solar Array
(LSA). Initial results by Tata Power indicate that the high levels of haze in the country have greatly
reduced the efficiency of LSA. Until the time, floating panels are a economically and technically
effective alternative, roof top panels will work best in the Indian Metros.

2. Rural India and Small and Large factories:
In this case, ground mounted Solar Panels may be considered a viable option if there is ample space
available or if the land is arid or uncultivable. Ground panels can be mounted a few feet above the
ground allowing farmers to grow specific plants under them. This may help in maximising the use of
the land. Given the high dependency of Indian Agriculture on rain (as opposed to irrigation), farmers
can use their solar plants as insurance against failed rains. Another option is that ground mounted
solar panels be installed atop canals that run along Indian farms. This has been done successfully in
Gujarat and has the benefits of floating panels (reduces evaporation and saves land).

3. Comparison between different Solar Panels
Ground Mounted Roof Mounted Floating Panels
Cost Ground-mounted panels Rooftop-mounted panels With the increasing cost of land
often cost more than roof are more common, and and diminishing availability,
mounted systems because they’re usually easier and floating panels are an
they require additional faster to install. The only alternative especially in areas
materials, time, and labour. thing that might increase where real estate is expensive.
Solar installers generally those costs significantly is They minimize the use of steel,
use a cement foundation or the condition and type of a major cost in the production
reinforced pole structure to roof. Rooftop-mounted of land based panels. Secondly,
ensure the panels are panels require a steady, the cooling effect of water
propped up off the ground, well-maintained roof that is increases the efficiency and
tilted at the proper angle, expected to last at least 20 reliability over land based
and then wired to the years and has a load systems.
home/factory. All of which bearing capacity. In addition, floating panels
ends up being a slightly Uninstalling and reinstalling reduce water evaporation (good
more involved — and solar panels is complicated, for drought prone areas),
expensive — process. time-consuming, and eliminate organic and algae
expensive, so replacing the growth keeping the water fresh
roof before installing panels and of high quality.
will increase overall costs. However, this being a relatively
new technology, it is still fairly
Space If you have a large space, With rooftop-mounted They are the most efficient use
then one can install a much panels, you’re much more of space. In areas where land is
bigger ground-mounted limited in the size of a expensive, floating panels are
system than you could with system that can be an excellent option.. It is not
a rooftop-mounted system, installed. However, it is a however, a solution for the rural
giving you the opportunity much better use of population or the poor.
to generate more energy otherwise unusable space.
and greater savings.
However, a large ground-
mounted system will
consume more land.

Ground Mounted Roof Mounted Floating Panels
Aesthetics These sit between a few These are generally less This is a low profile system that
(for homes) inches and several feet noticeable. If the front of minimizes visual impact on the
above the ground, the home faces south, the surrounding environment.
depending on the location panels will be very visible. If
and mounting system. the home faces north, on
These are not aesthetically the other hand, the solar
pleasing and may diminish panels can be hidden by
property values of homes. placing them on the
backside of your roof.
Positioning Solar panels should face Rooftop-mounted solar These panels are placed on
south or west, with panels are restricted by water on stability devices,
southwest or southeast multiple variables, including however more than the
alignments as possible the type of roof, angle, and positioning, it is the haze in the
alternatives. With a ground- direction. A slate roof with air that renders this technology
mounted system, you can a steep pitch isn’t ideal for less effective (as seen in the
make sure your panels are rooftop solar, for example, case of the Tata Power
oriented in the right while asphalt roofs with a Installation in Mumbai)
direction and at the right gentle slope are ideal.
angle without any potential Obstructions such as
shade to generate chimneys, skylights, trees,
maximum energy. It’s also a or buildings can also cast
lot easier to install a sun- shadows on rooftop panels,
tracking system on a reducing overall
ground-mounted array, production.
which can lead to higher

Cleaning and While solar panels don’t Not as easy to clean/repair. Not as easy to clean/repair
Maintenance require much maintenance,
ground mounted are easier
to clean

4. Case Study of Cost Savings by using Solar Energy

As a case study, I have chosen Tata Motor’s plant in Pune. The facility in Maharashtra is spread over 800 acres
of land and the way it is built, it has several large building blocks with unutilized rooftops. This provides an
excellent opportunity for the company to install rooftop solar power plants on its building blocks.
The company consumed 3,94,518 MgW of power in the FY2015 according to its management. Given that the
total power cost for the year was Rs 395 crores, the implied rate of power for the entire company was Rs 9.99
per unit.

The Tata Group, a 100 billion group, is one of the leading industrial houses in India. It has a stated policy of
conservation of energy and utilizing clean and alternate sources of energy. Tata Motors is one of the flagship
companies of the Tata Group. It is a USD 42billion organization and a global automobile manufacturer with a
portfolio that covers a wide range of cars, sports vehicles buses, trucks and defence vehicles.

Pictures of some of their car/brands
Tata Motors has manufacturing facilities in several Indian states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand
and Karnataka. Across its various facilities, it produces around 400,000 vehicles annually. Its annual power
and fuel cost is approximately Rs 400crores in a year. Given that its net profit has also hovered around
Rs400crores since FY2013 (not including the unusual net loss in FY2015 on account of the purchase of Jaguar),
a meaningful reduction in power cost can have a significant impact on the profitability of the company. This is
will also have a huge impact on the environment.


In Rs Cr. 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
NET REVENUE 44502.74 38176.15 38121.14 46853.92 54880.64 45167.77
NET PROFIT 234.23 -4738.95 334.52 301.81 1242.23 1811.82
POWER & FUEL COST 402.36 395.88 392.09 484.66 550.89 471.28

Source: Annual


(a) Total Units (MgWh) of power consumed 3,94,518
(b) Total Power and Fuel expense (Rs Crores) 395

(c) Effective Rate of Power consumed (Rs/unit) (a/b) 9.99


(d) Total Units (MgWh) of power consumed 59,177.70

(e) Per unit cost of power in Pune 10.00

(f) Total Power and Fuel expense in Pune Plant (Rs Crores) 59.18

Cost of Solar Power (Rs/unit)


New Power and Fuel expense in Pune Plant (Rs Crores) 44.33

Savings in Pune alone (Rs crores) 14.85

Cost of Solar Power per unit (industry surces) 7.5
% of power and fuel cost accounted by Pune Plant 15%

If we conservatively assuming that the Pune Plant accounts for only 15% of the entire company’s power cost,
then by going solar in Pune, Tata Motors can reduce its overall power cost by 4% in a year. This translates into
a saving of Rs 15crores, which flows directly into its bottom-line.
A switch to Solar energy does not only have an enormous positive impact on our environment, but it can also
lead to significant financial savings for companies. Should government’s give corporate fiscal incentives to
switch to greener energy sources, the case for setting up Solar Plants will become that much more compelling
for corporates.


Total Units (MgWh) of power consumed 3,94,518
Total Fuel Cost (Rs Crores) 395
Effective Rate of Power consumed (Rs/unit) 9.99
Cost of Solar Power (Rs/unit) 5

Assuming that the Pune Plant consumes 15% total of
Power Consumed by Pune Plant
Per unit cost of power in Pune 12.00
Total Cost of power in Pune Plant (Rs Crores) 71.01

Cost of Solar Power (Rs/unit) 5
Total power cost in Pune using Solar (rs Crores) 29.59
Savings in Pune (Rs Crores) 41.42
Savings as a % of total Cost 10%
Saving in CO2 emissions (tonnes) 5,846

Trees saved per Kg of CO2 emitted


Total Trees saved by going Solar in Pune

1. Cost of Solar Power per unit is Rs 5
2. Current cost of power per unit in the Tata Motor’s Pune Plant is Rs 12
3. Savings in Carbon dioxide emission per KwH of power is 98.7 tonnes
4. Trees saved per kg of CO2 emitted is 20