The deadline to meet the mandatory solar purchase obligation is December.

With just eight months left to meet the December deadline to meet the mandatory solar purchase obligation, as ordered by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission, lack of clarity on implementing it is haunting the stakeholders involved, including the Tangedco.

Many consumers, especially schools and colleges, however, have started tapping the sun in a small way.

According to the order dated March 7, 2013, solar purchase obligation of 3 per cent till December 2013 is applicable to industries (High Tension consumers), special economic zones, industries that have assured uninterrupted power supply, Information Technology parks, telecom towers, colleges, residential schools, Low Tension (LT) commercial connections, and buildings with more than 20,000 sq m built-up area. The obligation will go up to 6 per cent from January 2014.

The consumers have the options of generating the solar energy required according to the obligation through captive facilities in the States, buy the required power from third party developers of solar power projects in the State, purchase it from Tangedco at the solar tariff or meet the obligation through purchase of renewable energy certificate.

“We have not yet received the working instructions to implement the solar purchase obligation. We need clear details on how to implement it and how to proceed. All information related to implementing it is expected soon,” a senior official of Tangedco here told The Hindu on Wednesday.

The consumers who will come under the obligation have just eight months to make the necessary investments or arrangements to meet it. Even in the case of domestic consumers, they need to have meters at home to get generation-based incentive for solar energy generated from rooftop installations. And details on the specifications for the meters and its availability are not yet available.

Shree Sarasswathi Vidhyaah Mandheer, a residential school in Mettupalayam near here, is looking to meet 80 per cent of its power requirements through renewable power.

SSVM Institutions trustee S. Mohan Doss says the school had opted for solar power in 2004 itself. Seven solar-powered water heaters supply more than 10,000 litres of hot water every day for the 700 students of the school.

The campus has solar street lights too.

Now it has drawn up plans to install a 1-KVA solar power unit.

“We are considering setting up a shed to house 100 cows so that biogas too be tapped to generate power supply,” said Mr. Mohan Doss.

The solar water heaters at the school helps it save nearly 25,000 units a year, said Manimekalai Mohan, managing trustee of the school.

Other energy conservation measures put in place at the school include optimum utilisation of sunlight in all buildings, thereby reducing use of lights and installing nature air vents, which do away with the need for exhaust fans.

Some of the colleges in Coimbatore too are in the process of installing solar panels. Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology in Pollachi has installed a unit of 40 kVA in October 2012. It is using nearly 50 units of solar energy a day and plans to increase the generation gradually. But since the implementation of the solar power obligation and the Generation-based Incentive of Rs. 2 a unit have not been worked out for the colleges, the institution too is affected. PSG College of Technology has been using solar energy for quite sometime now. It has placed an order for solar panels of 700 kVA capacity to be installed on roof tops of various buildings of the college.

A. Kandaswamy, Head, Biomedical Engineering, says the college is looking to achieve 100 per cent energy through renewable sources. With the 30 per cent subsidy, the college has to spend Rs. 60 lakh for an installation of 100 kVA.

“The total of Rs. 4 crore expenditure can be made up in four years in terms of unit output. This is the best way to combat the exorbitant costs incurred in buying diesel for generators that run more than almost 10 hours a day during the power cuts,” he says.

The Nilgiris

A majority of the residential schools in Udhagamandalam are gearing up to meet the solar purchase obligation.

The 155-year-old Lawrence School at Lovedale near here has for the last few years been using solar energy to provide hot water to about 600 students, says school principal Sangita Chima. The Good Shepherd International School founder-principal P.C. Thomas says that the policy of the institution is to judiciously mix solar, wind, biogas to meet the energy requirements of the institution. The institution, in course of time, will de-link itself from conventional power, he says. The founder, St. Jude’s Public School and Junior College, P.P. Dhanarajan says that switching over to non conventional energy is high in the list of priorities of the school.

(M. Soundariya Preetha, Amutha Kannan, and R. Sairam in Coimbatore and D. Radhakrishnan in Udhagamandalam)