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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harnessing solar energy

The New York Times has a set of three great articles on solar energy:

  • Using the sun's heat, not light is about solar thermal energy. It mentions a facility which uses 400 acres of land to produce 64 Megawatts at a price of Rs.5.6 per KiloWattHour. That might make sense in many parts of India.
  • Storing sunshine is about the problem of storing energy. A neat idea that I saw there was that of using off-peak low-priced electricity to construct a 2000 kg block of ice in the basement of a building, in order to reduce the purchase of peak-time expensive electricity for air conditioning in the daytime. The benefits from the system depend on how extreme the day vs. night temperature change is. It struck me that in a lot of India, there is a huge difference between the day and night temperatures. Such a system is, of course, only viable when there is a sensible time of day pricing scheme, one which also correctly penalises the capital cost induced by the peak load.
  • Solar power wins enthusiasts but not money talks about the politics of government expenditures on alternative energy technologies.

While on this subject, see this fascinating article by R. K. Pachauri and Leena Srivastava in Indian Express on the energy efficiency implications of having two time zones in India. In that case, we'd have a GMT+5 west coast and a GMT+6 east coast instead of an awkward GMT+530 for the full country. And, there's a great article by Kevin Hassett on Bloomberg about the possibility of the government supplying put options on the price of alternative energy, to investors taking risks on alternative energy.


  1. Though two timezones would be an administrative nightmare already, DST would only add to the complexity.

    DST can simply be avoided by using different work hours during summer and winter.

  2. It's nice to see you write about solar power. India gets so much sunlight and I'm sure that it has potential if explored. What inhibits people (at least in the US) is the higher initial installation costs, and the fact that installing solar panels is cheaper in the long run, but expensive in the short term. So, many people prefer to go the cheaper way. We need governments, institutions and businesses to get behind this and promote it. Thanks for writing about it.


  3. There is no way solar can be big thing until we dont make research investment to make cheap solar tech. Yes India does receive 1000 times more energy that it consumes...
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