Whoever said it was right. Solar power is the energy resource that isn’t owned yet—nobody taxes the Sun! From the break of dawn till dusk, the sun shares its heat with the earth. And in India, which lies close to the equator, there is bountiful sunlight for most part of the year. Luckily for us, this solar energy is not only freely available, but we also have the technology to harness it to light up our lives. Solar power, as is well known, is the cleanest and greenest energy resource that we can easily tap into.
So, why not make 2024 the year that you will take your first step towards adopting a sustainable lifestyle by embracing solar energy and putting it to use in your home. If you have already done that then you could possibly build on what you have started and decrease your dependency on power from the grid.
So where does one start? If you live in an independent house, it would be good to go in for a rooftop solar system. Those who own a flat in a housing society can convince other members to jointly invest in an energy saving system on the roof of apartment blocks. The good news is that the Central government has announced in January (consider it a New Year’s gift!) an enhanced subsidy for setting up solar units in residences to ramp up renewable energy in the country. That should be an added motivation for you to turn solar in 2024.
Incidentally, technology to capture solar energy has taken large strides and will continue to do so in the years to come. So how is solar energy converted to electric energy? Simply put, when the photons from the sun hit the rooftop solar panel, they are converted to electrons of direct current (DC). Rooftop solar panels come with inverters, which in turn convert direct current electricity into alternating current (AC), which are used to power lights, fans, refrigerators, laptops and other devices at home.
The solar panels that you install last as long as 25 years, and the investment you make on them can be recovered in approximately four to five years. Hence, solar energy is a winner on several counts — it not only makes you feel good as you are saving fossil fuel and helping the planet, but it also comes 60 per cent cheaper and in the long run gives you energy virtually free of cost.
A friend who is a solar energy expert says that all you need to install a 1.5kW capacity system is sufficient space on your terrace to accommodate the solar panels. And such a system will generate sufficient electrical energy to fulfil the basic needs for a family of four or five members. It could, by supplementing the power being used, reduce your dependency on electricity supplied from the grid and will in turn reflect in a healthy trimming of your electricity bill. And the best thing about rooftop solar units is that they require very little maintenance and can be set up for the whole house or for specific applications and be customised to your needs.
If you are really considering installing a solar system, it would be best to call in a rooftop solar company. Its experts will give you the exact calculations and match your demand to the capacity of the system to be installed and the space you can allocate for it. The capital costs for solar panel installation have also been falling over the years, so it would be advisable to speak to more than one player and get their competitive quotes before zeroing in on one that is most reasonable and suited for your requirements.
Please do ask for all the latest options available. Today we have solar hybrid inverters which have built-in battery connections to enable energy storage for later use and can act as a power back-up when there is a blackout. Several systems also have remote control and monitoring technology through which solar system owners can monitor its performance and see what savings it is bringing for them.
But there is a downside to solar power. There may be days when sunlight is bleak, and the panels fail to generate sufficient energy. But this is more of a problem in western nations when there is very weak sun for days together. But in tropical countries like India the sun is evenly strong except during adverse weather conditions and during brief spells in the winter months. But to tide over such situations there is a backup now in storage batteries. Solar energy can now be stored and used later, making it of use even in the non-sunny hours.
Solar energy and hydrogen are often touted as the fuels of the future. As the world battles with global warming and climate change it is imperative that all responsible citizens do their bit towards making the earth a safer and greener place. And what better way to do that than by making the switch to solar power!
Moreover, if we set an example, then others are likely to follow. When neighbours, friends and colleagues learn about the benefits from your initiative, they too might be interested to install rooftop solar panels in their homes and offices. And even if they don’t, you can have the pleasure of having a self-sustaining source of energy which gives you some level of independence from the power grid and keeps you ticking during power outages.
Surya namaskar to that…
The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues