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Sun power

In a first-of-its-kind private initiative in the city, a solar power project produces, consumes and feeds power to the KSEB grid.

April 19, 2015 05:22 pm | Updated 05:22 pm IST

This project does not use any batteries but uses the energy banking facilities provided by KSEB. In this there is no loss of power. Photo: Special Arrangement

This project does not use any batteries but uses the energy banking facilities provided by KSEB. In this there is no loss of power. Photo: Special Arrangement

On a sunny day Alex K. Ninan’s home terrace presents a breathtaking view of the city. In the distance is parked a luxury cruise liner, choppers circle in the clear blue sky, traffic moves nonchalantly on the Gammon Bridge, a glassy skyscraper rises in the neighbourhood, a sweep of tree tops close by wave in the breeze. If the view from the terrace is panoramic then the terrace itself is an equally interesting place with artificial turf, two goal posts and an overhead 1850 sq ft steel frame holding 96 solar panels. At a time when the sun beats down on the liner, the copters, the cars and bathes all else in its fierce intensity, the panels get busy producing energy that’s consumed by Alex’s seafood factory, Baby Marine International in Thoppumpady, reducing its energy load by nearly 130 units a day. The ‘extra’, the over flow, that is produced is offered to Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for use.

In a first-of-its-kind project in the district where privately produced solar energy is offered to the State Electricity Board, Alex’s initiative for green energy was recognised by the Government on Earth Day. He was felicitated by the District Collector.

The project, a 24kWp Solar Grid-Tie PV System, was born out of a need for continuous power supply for freezing units.

“Frozen seafood has to be maintained at minus 18 degrees, 24 hours, and 365 days a year. The cold storage has to run continuously and we depend completely on power,” says Alex adding that the uncertain power situation and rising tariffs were immediate causes to think of an alternate energy source.

On project site are 96 neatly lined metallic panels in a frame which connects to a grid-tie inverter that converts DC current and synchronises it with the grid. The production, its consumption and distribution, is monitored by an ‘export-import’ metre, in use for the first time here. It is this meter, as against the ones commonly used in homes, where electricity received or imported and produced and exported is registered. The meter monitors the inflow and outflow, hence its production and consumption.

Young and enthusiastic entrepreneur M.T. Thomas of RenQ Power Solutions who installed the project explains, “This is called net metering and is a facility provided by KSEB.”

He further explains the more commonly used battery for storage of solar energy. “This project does not use any batteries but uses the energy banking facilities provided by KSEB. In this there is no loss of power. This is the first time such a project is being done in Ernakulam.”

The other important concerns are about safety and doubts over weather conditions. Thomas says, “Clear skies are the best for production but if there is light there will be production; besides changes in temperature have no bearing on this.”

Executive Engineer of Mattancherry Division, Beena Coilo says that all safety aspects have been looked into and that a “separate isolator” is provided for such power plants. “It is all automatic; during power failure or any fault in the system the inverter trips,” adds Thomas.

Beena says that such ventures can help meet the demand for power and are commendable. “We are buying power from outside the State at higher value, so such initiatives are great.”

Thomas says that the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (KSERC) solar policy elaborates the know-how required for such initiatives but sees a need to train department staff to facilitate and convey the potential of such projects. A KSEB insider says, “We are now hand-holding consumers and applicants who have shown interest and come forward with proposals. We will see that they are not likely to suffer on any account.”

“Along with power,” Alex says, “the venture has generated much excitement among electricity department officials and other consumers.” He has department staff, friends and the interested visiting the premises and studying it enthusiastically.

Meanwhile as summer peaks and the solar panels heat up to produce energy, Alex waits happily for his monthly electricity bill to arrive. This time he knows, for sure, there will be a dip, a cooling off, just like when the sun goes down.

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