Sunday, November 22, 2009

The 20 Giga watt ambition

India plans to harness solar power to installed capacity of 20GW. This 10 times the power from Kalpakkam Nuclear facility.

This is a massive project, with would demand an equally massive budget. I think it comes at an important time when power shortages are crippling the Indian economy. But I have questions on the solar technology with respect to operational efficiency. Can it deliver 20GW of power? Would it be cost effective?

If I were to design this, the solar power plants in this large scale cannot be built using semiconductor based photovoltaic (the technology you see in your solar calculators), but with solar thermal power plants (similar to ones in Spain ) A solar thermal power plant is easy to understand - thousands of mirrors reflect sunlight on a tower, where water is heated to vapour. This steam is passed through a turbine to generate electricity. This setup is cheap build, and I would expect the maintenance cost to be low. The only problem is, each of these generate could generate 10-20 MW. We will need 200 of these to reach the 20GW of capacity.

I am feeling cautiously optimistic with this project.
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