GRIDCONNECTED SOLAR PV PLANTS AT AMU
Helping India’s Climate Change Pledge
I ndia is at a complex stage with respect to the energy scenario. The demand for energy is increasing rapidly. It is expected that India will contribute the maximum amount of addition to the energy requirement in the world in the next 25 years. On the other hand, it is committed through various international agreements for reducing the carbon emissions significantly
In 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Paris. During the convention the 196 nations that are part of the UNFCCC approved the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 2 °C, and to make best efforts to keep it to 1.5 degrees .
India’s pledge in the agreement offers a comprehensive approach to curb the adverse impacts of climate change. An important part of the pledge is that the country will reduce the carbon emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels. Moreover, the commitment is to achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil-fuel energy resources by 2030.
Satisfying this pledge requires pursuing installation of alternate energy sources aggressively. The Indian climate is particularly suitable for utilization of solar photovoltaic (PV) power. The Government of India has set up a target of installation of 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
Academic institutions can play an important role in this mission because they function mostly during daytime, which makes them ideally suited for harnessing the available solar power and the availability of technical competence. The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in recent years has been pursuing this path towards energy conservation and reduction in reliance on conventional sources of electricity aggressively. It has been a priority area for the university.
As an important part of this initiative, the university has installed 4.5 MW capacity grid-connected solar PV plant in the campus. This article describes the background, cost–benefit analysis of these plants, the impact on environment, and the future scope in the following sections.
ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION SCENARIO AT AMU
The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the oldest central universities in the country. It was established in 1920 and over the years it has grown into a huge institute in terms of both geographical area and the number of students. At present, the University has more than 150 departments of study. The AMU is primarily a residential university with more than 10,000 students residing in different halls of residences. Due to its vast nature, the electricity consumption of the University is very high. The sanctioned load of the main campus at Aligarh is 8.5 MVA. The campus is fed by a dedicated feeder of 132 kV through a 33 kV substation in the campus. Electricity is an essential requirement for the growth of an institution; accordingly the consumption is high and it is increasing with expansion in the campus. The campus is free from load shedding and the tariff structure is governed by the Rate Schedule HV-1 of UP State Electricity Regulatory Commission for public institutions being fed by a single point supply at 33 kV.
The present annual electricity consumption of the university is around 2.6 crore units of electricity which is a huge burden on the university’s budget as well as a major concern from the environment point of view also. An exponential increase in the electricity bill was recorded and observed in the last 5 years.
The exponential increase in the electricity bill presented a grave challenge for the university as most of the non plan grant from the UGC is utilized in paying the bills leaving very little margin for other development work. Moreover, the regular revision of tariff made it difficult for the university. Infrastructure development is an integral part for the growth of an institution. A very well equipped Trauma Centre has been established by the ministry in the campus.
Three large new halls of residences for students are also under construction. These developments will further increase the electricity consumption. All these developments led the university administration to explore the possibility of installation of gridconnected solar PV power plants in the campus. Pursuing in this direction, the university has successfully installed 4.5 MW capacity grid-connected solar PV plant in the campus. The installation includes a 3 MW solar farm installed on an unutilized barren land on the outskirts of the campus. Remaining 1.5 MW capacity plant is distributed across 16 rooftops in the campus. This plant has been installed in RESCO mode under the SECI/CPWD scheme of the Government of India. Details of these two plants and their cost–benefit analysis is presented in the following sections.
3-MW GRID-CONNECTED SOLAR FARM
The university has installed a 3-MW ground-mounted, solar power plant on an unutilized barren land outside the main campus. Before initiating the installation, simulation studies were performed to decide the optimal capacity of the plant. Based on the simulation studies, the plant is expected to generate about 45 lakh units of electricity per year with a payback period of about 6 years.
The plant was commissioned on June 10, 2017, and it generated 236,541 units of electricity (kWh) in the month of June. During the month of July, the total number of units generated by the plant is 253,605 despite heavy rains and disruption to the transmission line due to storm for about seven days in the month. The electricity generated by the plant is being fed to the university network via a transmission line installed from the solar plant to the 33kV dedicated substation of the university situated at a distance of about 2.5 km from the solar farm. The maximum generation for any day till now has been 15,587 units which has crossed even the most optimistic estimates. Considering the present per unit rate of electricity in the campus, the savings from the plant for the month of June 2017 was approximately Rs21.62 lakh while for the month of July 2017, the approximate saving was Rs23.18 lakh. It is a major step towards making the university a green campus, and it will also relieve the state power grid from a significant share of load during day time. The units generated in the month of June and July 2017 along with savings; financial as well as savings in equivalent CO2 emissions is given in Table 1.
The plant has been installed for a total cost of about `20.60 crore including construction of boundary wall around the plant, operation and maintenance, and security for ten years. The total life of a solar power plant is 25 years. With the performance shown in the first two months, it is expected that the investment will be recovered in about 5–6 years at the present rate of electricity. If the rate of electricity is increased, which usually happens every alternate year, then the return on investment period will further reduce.
At present, the power generated from the solar plant is being utilized only for captive consumption of the university. However, the university would like to feed the power generated from the plant into the State Power Grid on Net-Metering basis. For this purpose, an application has been submitted for required modifications in the Rooftop Solar PV Grid Interactive Systems Gross/Net Metering Regulations, 2015, of Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC), notified on March 20, 2015.
THE WAY FORWARD
Availability of such a large grid-connected installation in the university provides a very good opportunity for carrying out research and development projects addressing various issues of large gridconnected solar power plants. The plants can also be utilized for imparting training to Engineers of DISCOMS and Entrepreneurs, etc., which is an important part of the National Solar Mission. Organizations, such as the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, and India Smart Grid Forum are taking keen interest in these plants for different training, research, and development activities. Some of the important areas of future development are as follows:
- Performance evaluation of large grid-connected solar PV plants in North India: A research project may be carried out to evaluate the performance of these solar power plants for one complete year. It will be helpful for other such plants to be commissioned especially in North India.
- Training centre on solar power: The two solar PV plants installed at AMU provides a very good opportunity for producing trained manpower in order to promote the solar power. The AMU campus is ideally suited for such a training centre in the country because apart from MW scale grid-connected solar plants in the campus it has a renowned Electrical Engineering Department with a very well established lab on solar power and it has a centre for renewable energy also sanctioned by the Ministry. Moreover, the infrastructure required for training programmes, such as classrooms, computing facilities, guest houses etc., are also available. In response to the call issued by NISE, the university has already submitted a formal application in this regard.
- Promotion of solar power in universities: The experience gained and lessons learned can be utilized for promoting installation of solar power; especially in other academic institutions in the country. Many other academic institutions are now trying to replicate this experiment in their campuses and the university is extending all possible cooperation in this regard.
- Research project on monitoring of gridconnected solar PV: Monitoring and control of active distribution networks with large grid-connected solar plants is an important area of concern. The set-up at AMU may be utilized for research work in this area. It can be a major contribution to the National Smart Grid Mission also.
Article courtesy : Dr Mohammad Rihan is working as Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and as Member Incharge, Electricity Department, Aligarh Muslim University. He has been the Incharge of the Solar Power Projects Completed at AMU. His research interests are in the field of Smart Grid, Grid Integration of Renewables, and Synchrophasors measurement in Smart Grid. He is a Senior Member of IEEE.