- The natural variations in wind and solar energy, and lack of adequate electricity storage facilities, result in about 15-20 per cent of all renewable energy generated in India going waste, according to a top official in Panasonic India’s energy division.
- “On average, if 24 hours is the potential for electricity generation, then you can easily say that 15-20 per cent is wasted because the grid can’t manage the kind of variation in the electricity sourced from wind and solar generation.
- The variability of generation from renewable sources — where wind changes direction and speed on an hourly basis and solar intensity can vary by the minute — is not that big a problem if renewable energy forms a small proportion of the overall grid, as it does currently in the national grid.
- “But if you look at state-specific grids, then the picture changes,” he added. “For example, percentage-wise, wind is pretty high in the Tamil Nadu grid and that is creating problems for them.
- “With wind changing its speed and direction, it becomes horrible from a grid stability point of view.”
- The typical strategy in India at the moment, is to simply discard the unstable power without letting it ever enter the grid.
- “So you are generating but not using it in the grid,” he said. “It gets wasted. Electricity is something you either use immediately, or you cannot use it at all.”
- That’s where storage technology comes in.
- Storage technology can ensure that no matter the wind or solar generation, what you get out of the generation-cum-storage unit is a uniform output, “which is great for the grid”.
- As far as battery technology goes, lithium-ion batteries — the kind used in cellphones — have emerged as the technology of choice since they outperform all the other competing technologies in terms of size, capacity, efficiency, and environmental impact.
- “Lithium-ion does not seem to be going (away) in the next decade,” Mr. Arya said.
- “And if you include the fact that even electric cars use that battery, then you can expect greater R&D and investment in this technology in the future.”
- The current NDA government at the Centre has been pushing hard for renewable energy since it came to power, but is still moving relatively slowly on storage technologies, something that a few policy decisions could rectify, according to Mr. Arya.
- “There is realisation in the government and the ministries in understanding the subject, but yes, it is quite new,” he said. “Maybe it will still take some time” for government policy to gain traction.
- Apart from announcing tax incentives for storage technology manufacturing, such as is being done for the IT sector, other steps like viability-gap funding can also boost the sector.
- “The government currently only recognises gas-based plants as the service providers to boost generation whenever it falls short of demand,” Mr. Arya said.
- “But it doesn’t recognise energy storage for this purpose, something that is already happening in the western world.”