The Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah has called for research targeted at reducing the cost of storing solar energy in the context of the National Solar Mission, recently launched by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which aims at generation of an installed capacity of 20,000 MW of solar energy by 2022.

Inaugurating the CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) Research and Green Technologies Centre and the Rajeswari Towers (Staff Quarters-II) at the VIT University here on Monday, Dr. Abdullah said that under the National Solar Mission, in the next three years, the Government of India hopes to add 1300 MW of solar energy, of which 1100 MW would be grid-connected, and 200 MW would be utilised for providing electricity to villages which do not have energy, and therefore have not seen any electricity so far.

“Here comes the problem of storage of energy. Today we store energy in batteries, using distilled water. But there are a number of villages in Jammu & Kashmir, which are at a height of 8000 to 9000 feet above the sea level where they do not have distilled water. They have to use the available water in the canals and streams, as a result of which the batteries would stop functioning. Batteries that do not use water are expensive, and therefore we have to reduce the prices of such batteries,” he said.

The Union Minister said that till date, there was no answer to the question of finding an inexpensive means of storage of energy. Under these circumstances, institutions such as VIT University should undertake research to find out ways of storing energy at the right voltage.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy would provide all help to the institute in undertaking such research. In hill states where roads are very narrow, carrying huge windmills was not possible. He has therefore told the windmill manufacturers to produce windmills, which could be easily transported to such areas. The Army is spending Rs.1200 crore on diesel to meet its power requirements for its operations in the Ladakh region alone, he said.

Dr. Abdullah also called for research on the production of power from the abundant kitchen wastes in the country. The Indian kitchen wastes are different from the kitchen wastes in the U.S. and the European countries. Research should also be undertaken on the suitable technology for generating electricity from rice husk, which goes waste. Punjab and Haryana are doing a lot of work in this area.

In Chennai, he would be having a meeting with architects to discuss with them ways of constructing energy-efficient buildings and houses and creating cooler buildings without the use of energy or by using less energy. Research should also be undertaken in this area.

Referring to the proposal of the Government of India to install micro-hydel projects in the villages, especially those which did not have electricity, the minister stressed the need for using cheaper technology. “The products must be good and cheap. Unless you produce cheaper products, they cannot be used by ordinary people,” he said.

G. Viswanathan, Chancellor of VIT University who presided said that the VIT University would be shortly submitting a proposal to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for installing a gassifier plant to produce energy from the husk that is wasted in the rice mills. It was possible to produce 200 MW to 300 MW of power through this process. The proposal includes the setting up of an Energy Centre in Bihar where the VIT would take up research on producing electricity from the rice husk generated by five mills. He requested the minister to grant the project.

The Chancellor said that the Rajeswari Towers (Staff Quarters-II) had 108 apartments, as against 72 in the Staff Quarters-I. Within another year, the VIT University would build another staff quarters to meet the demands of the teachers.

Dr. Abdullah presented a memento to R. Natarajan, Senior Professor and General Manager of the CO2 Research and Green Technologies Centre.

Prof. Natarajan requested the minister to recognise the CO2 Research and Green Technologies Centre as a national centre for research and to include it as one of the centres for the National Carbon Dioxide Research Fellowship. Sekar Viswanathan, Pro-Chancellor, VIT requested the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to facilitate the production of cheaper photovoltaic solar devices, so that the common man could utilise them to harness solar energy. G.V. Selvam, Pro-Chancellor said that the 12-storeyed Rajeswari Towers has been constructed at a cost of Rs.20 crore. D.P. Kothari, Vice-Chancellor and Anand A. Samuel, Pro-Vice-Chancellor spoke. S. Narayanan, Director-Administration, welcomed the gathering. K. Chidambaram, Director-Students’ Welfare proposed a vote of thanks.