CHENNAI: What’s the use of building solar power parks if your place is in a site that doesn’t get enough solar radiation? It is to rectify this hole in available data that Chennai’s own National Institute of Wind Energy, an Institute under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, has launched India’s first and the world’s largest solar radiation measuring network and atlas.
Built over a period of three years and a cost of nearly `40 crore, the solar radiation measuring network will be the basis on which the Indian Solar Radiation Atlas will function on. According to officials at NIWE - Solar Radiation Resource Assessment wing(SRRA) 121 ground stations would measure the three parameters of Solar radiation ‑- Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) and Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI) to give a highly accurate measure of solar radiation in a particular region.
“India’s solar power projects have relied on satellite data so far to site themselves. But satellite data is not very reliable when it comes to measuring actual available solar radiation. It is because of this mismatch that a lot of projects which expect to be generating a 1,000 MW per annum end up producing less than 750 MW,” pointed out G Giridhar, Director, SRRA - NIWE.
The implementation of the Atlas and network is also a vital cog in the government’s solar energy policy, as confirmed by Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. “The aim of the Central government is to have 100 Giga Watts of solar power generation by 2022. This project will be a vital cog in implementing it,” he said.
The network is also one of the most accurate on the global front, with data derived from both ground and satellite measuring units. “The data that streams into the data centre in Pallikaranai here is evaluated and validated using satellite data too - India is too large a country to be covered by just 121 ground stations. We use this to remove any bias and come out with an average annual radiation measurement that is highly accurate,” said Giridhar. The Atlas boasts the top position in spatial resolution, 3km x 3km, of any existing radiation network in the world.
The Atlas is currently available across India for public access through the website and provides annual radiation values for every 3 sq km grid. However, this is merely the starting point — in the coming months SRRA will make several value additions to make it more useful to projects. The level of infrastructure and grid connectivity for a particular area, its protected/non protected status and more detailed radiation data will be incorporated into the Atlas soon.
Built through the cooperation of GIZ, Germany under the Indo-German Energy Programme, the Atlas launch was attended by GIZ Programme Director Dr Wineries Damm, Achim Fabig, Consul General of Germany and S Gomathinayakam, Director General - NIWE.