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FACE2FACE | May 2019

Solar power can provide relief to the Indian powerloom sector

Established in 1974, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a research institute that specialises in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development. The scope of the organisation’s activities includes climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energy, biotechnology, and social transformation.

Dr Ashvini Kumar, Senior Director – Renewable Energy, TERI, speaks on the organisation’s contribution to the sustainability of textile industry, and the potential of solar power utilisation in textiles. Excerpts…

Your comments on TERI’s contribution to the sustainability of textile industry.

TERI is deeply committed to every aspect of sustainable development. From providing environment-friendly solutions to rural energy problems to tackling issues of global climate change across continents and advancing solutions to growing urban transport and air pollution problems, TERI’s activities range from formulating local and national-level strategies to suggesting global solutions to critical energy and environmental issues.

The Industrial Energy Efficiency Division of TERI works closely with both large industries and energy intensive Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to improve their energy and environmental performance. TERI has undertaken energy conservation studies in many of the textile plants and suggested measures to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the potential of solar power utilisation in textile industry?

With the evolution of solar ecosystem in India and the numerous advantages of solar energy, the textile industry has embraced solar power and started to deploy solar systems in a huge way. In addition, textile processing itself requires a lot of hot water in the range of 40-110 degree Celsius at various stages of the process. The requisite heat can easily be generated through solar energy, adopting solar heating methods that will contribute a total saving of 383 ktoe per annum. As per the industry sources, such application of solar energy in textile industry has the potential of saving about Rs 770 crore per annum. A total saving worth Rs 13,940 per annum has been identified in the sector according to Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL).

To tap into the vast potential of solar power and provide efficient and cost-effective solutions, many developers and installers are working closely with the textile industry providing tailor-made solutions based on customer requirements. Solar power has become much cheaper and interestingly, solar power tariff is going to remain almost the same throughout the lifetime of the solar plant, whereas the rates for power from conventional sources are expected to escalate year-on-year.

TERI has installed solar panels above looms to produce the world famous Banarasi sarees. Kindly share more details on this.

Solar panels installed above some of the looms that produce the world-famous Banarasi sarees are helping these units access a cleaner form of energy to run their machines and deal with power cuts. The intervention, under TERI’s Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) programme received financial assistance from Indus Towers under their CSR initiative, with co-funding mobilised from the community.

Earlier, the looms had to use diesel-powered generator to tide over power cuts, which entails the high cost of diesel and harmful emissions from diesel. However, now the looms are using a hybrid solar PV system backed by cleaner, smaller and more powerful lithium batteries to store energy for use when the sun is not shining. These systems are being installed by TERI, under a CSR project, supported by Indus Towers under LaBL. A total of 100 such systems have been installed so far and they support 400 power looms in Lohta, Kotwa and Jalalipura areas in Uttar Pradesh. After installation of solar power systems, not only have earnings seen an increase of 20 per cent, but the productivity has also gone up as hours are not lost to power cuts.

The powerloom sector is in disarray. Can solar power provide relief to this segment? Can solar also play a major role in spinning and other textile sectors too. What are your comments?

Solar power can provide relief to this segment as the Indian textiles industry is extremely varied, with the hand-spun and hand-woven textiles sectors on one end of the spectrum and the capital-intensive sophisticated mills sector at the other end. Decentralised power looms/hosiery and knitting sector form the largest component of the textiles sector. The close linkage of the textile industry to agriculture (for raw materials such as cotton) and the ancient culture and traditions of the country in terms of textiles make the Indian textiles sector unique when compared to industries in other countries.

The implementation of energy conservation programmes in spinning mills have gained wide acceptance in the backdrop of rising energy costs and energy availability is another factor that needs further development. The Khadi and village industries Commission (KVIC) aims to make lives of its workers much simpler by replacing hand-driven charkha/spinning wheels to solar powered charkha and about 75 to 90 hanks can be produced in the same timeframe. The Indian textile industry has the capacity to produce a wide variety of products suitable to different market segments, both within India and across the world.

Where does India stand as far as solar power is concerned for the textile industry? What are your suggestions for the government to promote this renewable source of energy further?

The Government of India is committed to increased use of clean energy sources and is already undertaking various large-scale sustainable power projects and promoting green energy heavily. In addition, renewable energy has the potential to create many employment opportunities at all levels, especially in rural areas.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set an ambitious target to set up renewable energy capacities to the tune of 175 GW by 2022 of which about 100 GW is planned for solar, 60 GW for wind and other for hydro, bio, amongst others. The Government has recently approved a new scheme that also covers financial assistance in the form of capital subsidy to small power loom units for installation of solar PV (SPV) plants. The scheme aims to alleviate the problem of power cuts faced by the decentralised powerloom units in the country.

Apart from solar energy, how do you think other sources like wind energy can play a role for the energy-starved textile industry in some areas?

Wind power has a substantial potential in the country and over 35,000 MW capacity has already been installed. The textile industry is one of the early adopters of renewable energy in India and significantly contributed to the growth of renewable energy in the form of wind installations in the country. The textile industry has about 2,700 MW of wind generation capacity in Tamil Nadu alone. It plays an important role for the energy-starved textile industry.

Give us a view of the prospects of solar energy for the textile industry in coming years.

The future of solar energy considers only the two widely recognised classes of technologies for converting solar energy into electricity—photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP), sometimes called solar thermal—in their current and plausible future forms, because energy supply facilities typically last several decades, technologies in these classes will dominate solar-powered generation between now and 2050. Most textile factories have vast unshaded roof area and vast tracts of unused land. Setting up of solar plants in these unused areas is a relatively easy task when it comes to energy savings and reducing carbon footprint.

As per the India Brand Equity Foundation, around 293 global and domestic companies have committed to generate 266 GW of solar, wind, mini-hydel and biomass-based power in India over the next 5–10 years. The initiative would entail an investment of about $310–350 billion. Sensing the economical prospect of solar energy, the textile industry in India is getting assertive towards the use of solar energy. Textile sector contributes around 14 per cent to industrial production, 4 per cent to India’s GDP and constitutes 13 per cent of the country’s export earnings. The drop in solar module prices and the growth of the solar ecosystem has created an ideal situation for more widespread adaption of solar PV systems. The textile industry will benefit hugely by deploying solar projects in large scale in coming years.

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