Recently Google announced the creation of the company ‘Alphabet’ of which ‘G’ is for Google. This left everyone to wonder what the other letters will stand for. Looks like we have an answer for ‘S’. Google has now launched Project Sunroof that looks to explore its mapping capability with solar irradiation database to estimate solar energy.
Is this late or is it the right time?
Solar Engineers like me will say “We have been using Google maps and Google earth in doing solar PV system design”. Yes, we have been using the Google earth imagery to estimate the roof area, orientation etc to estimate the PV capacity. In most cases we have utilised the Google earth imagery and super imposed it on AutoCad to create the preliminary land boundaries.
Google Sketchup another google product that helps users create 3D images also allowed developers to build add ins to it. One of my favorite add ins is the Skelion. It helps put Solar PV panels on buildings and estimate energy generation. We could use sketchup, skelion and AutoCad to generate Contour maps of the land areas also.
So is this a little late? No!
I believe Google is doing this at the right time. Solar PV prices are falling and it makes economical sense to invest in PV right now. By launching this platform they will in their usual style make it ‘customer-friendly’. You can use only Google maps to estimate solar PV on your roofs instead of the other products I mentioned before.
What can you expect with this product?
Currently this is a pilot project in 3 cities in the US. It could soon spread considering the massive solar radiation database available with NREL.
Input your address, locate your roof and estimate the possible PV capacity.
Input your energy bill details and estimate the economical savings.
It would also allow you to get in touch with a local PV installer to visit and setup the plant for you.
Elon Musk draws comparisons to Steve Jobs whenever he steps on stage and the event to launch Tesla Energy was no different. After the event even his skeptics would agree that there are glimpses of Jobs in his approach.
When apple launched the iPod it was not the first digital music player in the market but a decade later it has become the default name for digital music player. The same is the story behind iPhone and even the iPad. What Jobs managed to do with these products was not invent something new but rather make the product appeal to people at all levels.
Fast forward to Elon Musk, Tesla motors has revolutionized electric mobility like no other company before it. The Japanese are automotive pioneers and had options in electric vehicles but Tesla stands apart. For sometime now we have come to know Elon Musk’s interest in solar energy (solarcity chairman, solaredge investor) and his plans to build batteries but little did we know that he would begin the process right at the bottom of the pyramid, the end user at distributed generation systems.
Watch Elon Musk’s talk during the launch of powerwall
He began his keynote presentation by talking about Keeling Curve (the curve that estimates the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over a period) and the need to switch to renewable energy esp solar energy. He calls the sun a fusion reactor.
What Jobs managed to do with apple devices was to make people feel that they have something special in their hands. I’m a big fan of this concept and I believe renewable energy will reach its true potential only when people feel that they are in part responsible for its generation and also its consumption. And bingo, that is how Elon Musk presented his idea, the idea of US having a great potential to tap solar energy and most of it through rooftop solar systems. He then put the problems with current batteries and our energy consumption in simple words by describing how big a room we need to store batteries just because we don’t have sunlight at night. What followed next was the launch of Tesla Powerwall
Powerwall is a Lithium ion battery which can seamlessly integrate with the existing grid, solar power and power your loads. Of course this is not the first product which does this but this product is so compact in design that you would want to have it right away even though it costs you upwards of USD 3500.
It is so compact in design that it is smaller than a typical 300Wp solar module! It is smaller than the source that powers it.
The product is currently being launched in7kWh and 10kWh. The product is completely scalable and you could stack it. But the address also showed the first glimpse of battery pack with a capacity of 100kWh.
The event is just a preview of what Elon Musk plans to do in the future through Tesla Energy. The best part came in the end when the cameras zoomed to the energy meter of the building which showed zero consumption from the grid and all the energy coming from the powerwalls. Should I say trendy powerwalls? because you get to choose the colour of your battery to match the theme of your wall. This is customisation, it brings the consumer closer to the product even though he doesn’t understand the science behind its working. This is where Elon Musk aligns with Jobs style of thought; when the Germans are looking at industrial size Lithium Ion and Sodium Ion battery containers and the Chinese working on Lithium Ion batteries for electronic devices and mobility, Elon Musk went to the end consumer who is in turn a solar power generator and its consumer with a device that will make him feel proud
Its been a phenomenal period in India ever since the new Government assumed office in India. Already known as a patron of alternate energy with special affiliation to solar energy, Mr. Narendra Modi has directed all concerned ministries to ramp up power generation in the country.
Solar sector first had to swallow a bitter pill in Accelerated Depreciation benefit being restored to wind energy and then came the good news in form of dumping the anti-dumping plea. Had the anti-dumping plea made a regulation solar power projects could have cost more by an average of 20% which would have been a dampener to the sector. What followed this was a slew of policies from across Indian states. The newly bifurcated states of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana who are vying for funds and favours from the central government on the pretext of being under developed announced a massive 500MW solar power project policies each. That has created a buzz and if rumors are to be true Andhra Pradesh has received proposal for over 1000MW for the 500MW tender and the same is likely to happen in Telengana.
At the central level, ONGC issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) inviting developers to work on their ambitious solar and wind power projects and trailing them behind was another major national power house who issued their own EoI for a 1000MW solar project. Another Indian state once a leader in solar technology, Karnataka launched its own solar policy and a 500MW project pipeline for developers and another 300MW for land owners to setup solar projects.
The National Solar Mission, the flag bearer for Indian solar power development was slated to announce its guidelines for the next phase of the project and this past week it released them and it aims to develop 1000MW of projects by 2016. A part of it, 250MW is reserved for domestic modules. One significant note in this as well the NTPC 250 MW bid is the minimum capacity of project, in both cases the minimum capacity has been kept at 50MW. It shall ensure only the big players with the required technical expertise would participate. Both the projects have been allotted to Andhra Pradesh which is facing a serious power crisis after the separation. Important measure in these project is the onus of land availability and evacuation infrastructure rests with NTPC and MNRE which lessens the burden on the developer who otherwise would have faced a hard time identifying 250 Acres of land required for a 50MW project.
India which currently has a solar installation of nearly 3000MW would see an influx of 750MW by March 2015 from the NSM project and post that would see an addition of 1000MW from the new states of AP and Telengana followed by another 800MW from Karnataka and a 250MW from NTPC then a 1000MW from NSM by 2016. Adding up the numbers would mean a capacity addition of 2800MW which would double the current solar power installation.
That will indeed be phenomenal!
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