In June 2015, PM Narendra Modi announced the Smart Cities mission for the future-focused development of 100 cities, tier – 2 and 3, across the country. The goal of the smart cities mission is to provide world-class urban infrastructure to city-dwellers through the use of informatics and technology. Transforming the way Indian cities run requires deep changes in infrastructure, and energy resilience play a primary role in achieving the set goals.
Role of Solar Energy in Smart City Mission
As a technology-first initiative, information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will form the undercurrent that powers the mission. To ensure successful implementations that are future-focused, the government has mandated that 10 per cent of the energy requirement will be fulfilled through solar. Moreover, the mission also aims to make 80 per cent of building energy-efficient green buildings. A stellar move, solar will empower the Smart City mission in providing citizens with clean, green and inexpensive energy solutions.
Why Solar Power is especially suited to India
India’s geographic location and conducive climate make solar energy tremendous successful in India. With over 300 sunny days through the year, the country can easily reduce dependence on fossil fuels by a significant margin given the right policy push. Currently, India ranks 5th in the global standing for solar installations. The mission, paving the path for solar in India, has set a target of 100 GW of solar power by 2021-22.
How Solar is being implemented in Smart Cities
The master plans for smart cities include both in-city and offsite power generation systems.
As for offsite infrastructure, the 100GW solar by 2022 roadmap is looking at 20 GW of power generation through solar parks. Another 10 GW will be implemented with the help of farmers.
However, the in-city mission has been given massive precedence with over 40 GW coming through rooftop solar plants. Installing solar panels on the rooftop has never been easier, thanks to advances in solar technology. The proliferation of solar PV systems across the globe has massively reduced solar panel prices as well.
Now, the usage of a rooftop solar panel for home is not just limited to water heaters. Several countries have shown massive impetus in powering entire homes and shops through PV panels. More than 16 states in the country have already set up policies to encourage solar usage. Net metering policies connect users of solar rooftop system for home to the grid and allows for passive income generation in small households.
Off-grid solar systems are also seeing an upsurge. Small commercial establishments and big homes can be entirely powered through 1KW solar panels available in the market. Off-grid solar system design includes just three main components – an inverter, a battery and solar panels. The installation is quite simple and reduces dependence on grid power supply significantly. This initiative is highly recommended for achieving 80% energy efficiency in buildings such as office spaces, schools, residential hubs etc.
Solar panel installation can also power streetlights, water pumps, traffic signals, road studs/blinkers and the states are being provided with the requisite resources to ensure successful implementation. Per the city, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is providing Rs. 50 Lakh to implement solar. To develop solar cities, urban local bodies known as Solar City cell is being introduced. Citizens are encouraged to approach local bodies to tap into this resource and bring greener energy into everyday life.
As of 2019, India’s solar installation stood at 26,984 MW on the ground while rooftop solar plants are at 1796 MW capacity. There is tremendous potential for a rapid rise in the use of rooftop solar installation as it is easy to implement and provides many economic benefits to users. A one-time investment, rooftop SPV panels are both economically and ecologically beneficial to users.
Diu Smart City: The Solar Success Story
In 2018, Diu became the first Union Territory to be 100 per cent solar-powered under the smart cities mission. Through the use of solar power plants, 13 MW of solar power capacity was installed in just three years. A 9 MW solar park spread over 50 hectares is now the lifeline of the city. The 22,000 residents of Diu are enjoying the economic benefits of solar, with a 15% reduction in power tariffs. On the ecological front, success is even more worthy of celebration, as the city now saves 13,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Energy demand is rising each year, and the usage of IoT devices and other communication technology is set to catapult in the next few years. The UN sustainable development goals for the decade also insists on the importance of renewable energy. With climate change occurring at a rapid pace, we are looking at 2-degree rise in global temperatures and many more frequent occurrences of natural disasters like floods along with it. Encouraging the use of solar through the smart cities and solar cities mission couldn’t have come at a better time for the country.
From an economic standpoint, India is highly reliant on the import of fossil fuels for electricity generation. A substantial segment of India’s population is yet to receive access to reliable energy, especially in remote areas. With solar, establishments both large and small can aim to become energy independent. Off-grid solar solutions can ensure continuous and uninterrupted supply of energy for commercial establishments. As an added plus, it can also serve as a passive income generator for small households. Therefore there is the large economic impetus to drive the use of Solar in India, and the smart cities mission is a step in the right direction. The master plan for solar in 50 cities has already been drafted by the ministry.
Urban development in India cannot occur successfully without serious consideration in terms of energy independence. In this sense, the smart cities mission paves a bright sunny future for urban residents of India, with government initiatives that wholly encourage tapping into the most abundant resource of plant earth – solar.