18 August 2022
A latest study by researchers at Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) poses an interesting question for Punjab’s push for renewable energy – amongst many other areas and aspects of our everyday lives: climate change is set to impact India’s solar and wind energy potential over the next five decades.
Due to its 300+ days of annual sunshine and insolation levels that range between 4 and 7 kilowatts per square metre, Punjab has a significant amount of solar energy potential. Punjab has the third-highest solar energy generation in north India from April 2018 to June 2022, according to the most recent data presented by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in Rajya Sabha on August 2, 2022. Punjab generated 1,473.41 million units (MU) of solar energy in the previous fiscal year (April 2021–March 2022) while Chandigarh generated 14.19 MU.
This latest study titled ‘Analysis of future wind and solar potential over India using climate models’ published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Science recently. The study has been authored by TS Anandh, Deepa Gopalakrihsnan and Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay, researchers from IITM Pune under the Ministry of Earth Sciences as well as Centre For Prototype Climate Modelling, New York University, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
“Our industry must adapt to the changing climate, and our technologies must keep pace. Such predictions should not be taken as facts, but as possibilities. The efficiency of renewable energy may be impacted by climate change in Punjab and the neighbouring areas. The study emphasises the importance of being prepared for scenarios of this kind and addressing it ,” said Mukhopadhyay.
Researchers carried out the study by using various state of the art climate models, devised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to analyse the wind and solar projections for the renewable energy sector over the Indian subcontinent for the immediate future (next 40 years).
“Our study of projections in terms of impact on renewably powered sources presents the classic case of challenges and opportunities in Punjab. For this region, solar potential is expected to decrease in the future with substantial decrease in the monsoon and post monsoon seasons and thus the need therefore to prepare better around it becomes important,” said Mukhopadhyay, adding that monsoons are expected to be more cloudy.
The Punjab government created a draft of its renewable energy strategy in 2019 with the intention of using 3 GW of renewable energy by 2030 to cover 21% of its power needs. However, the state government has not yet finalized this policy. The state’s previous strategy set a 2022 goal of 1000 MW, or 1 GW, of solar power producing capacity. According to MNRE data, Punjab’s installed solar capacity rose from 405 MW in 2016 to 1117.99 MW in 2022. According to unofficial estimates, Punjab exceeded the 1 GW threshold in the beginning of 2022.
The researchers of the latest study also said that in the case of wind potential, Punjab and surrounding regions show a positive trend in most of the climate models. “For the wind projection, a positive trend is noted along Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The high winds during monsoons are expected to increase while the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon winds are going to decrease in their magnitude,” added Mukhopadhyay.
The forecasts for the future are important since on August 3, India published a new set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the international fight against climate change. According to the updated NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India has set out on a mission to meet up to 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to increase the nation’s renewable energy capacity to 500 GW during the COP26 conference in Glasgow last November, with 300 GW coming from the growth of solar energy plants.
STUDY HIGHLIGHTED IN PARLIAMENT, UNION MINISTER RESPONDS
On August 2, 2022, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was questioned in Parliament (Rajya Sabha) regarding the research study by IITM Pune titled “Analysis of future wind and solar potential over India using climate models,” which says that changing climate patterns are likely to reduce the generation of solar power in the country and also affect the major wind power plants in certain regions; and if so, what were the measures being taken to improve the efficiency of solar farms and wind power plants?
RK Singh, the Union Minister for MNRE & Power, said that the government was taking the following actions to raise the effectiveness of wind and solar power facilities:
● MNRE is funding research and development under the “Renewable Energy Research & Technology Development Program” in a variety of areas, including enhancing solar cell efficiency, resource assessment, precise forecasting techniques, raising hub heights for wind turbines, and making larger rotor blades.
● Implementing the “National Program on High Efficiency Solar PV Modules” production-linked incentive programme to stimulate the production of high-efficiency solar PV modules.