“Fossil fuels have, and continue to, play a dominant role in global energy systems. But with mounting scarcity of fossil fuels, solar energy is gaining more and more significance in India.” Discuss the availability of raw material required for the generation of solar energy in India and in the world. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • https://ourworldindata.org/fossil-fuels
  • Amidst growing global fossil fuel consumption over the long-term and consequent scarcity it is essential for us to evaluate options of renewable resources and in this context Solar energy.
  • The steady increase in energy consumption coupled with environmental pollution has promoted research activities in alternative and renewable energy fuels. Many countries in the world are continuously developing materials and methods for effectively utilizing the alternative fuel resources available in their region. Thus one must discuss the potential Solar energy has for us to overcome the energy shortages of present and future. Your discussion should focus on the availability of raw material required for the generation of Solar energy in India and in the world.
  • Start with a brief highlight of the current energy consumption patterns across the world, the crisis World is facing.
  • Discuss the following points in detail in the body of the answer:
  • Explain how the world is gradually marching towards a severe energy crisis, with an ever-increasing demand of energy overstepping its supply and that the energy we use every day is not unlimited, yet we take it for granted.
  • Discuss the causes of energy crisis
  • Then move on to discuss the potential of Solar energy as a renewable source of fuels.
  • Discuss the factors associated such as – availability of raw material required for the generation of Solar energy in India and in the world – Tropical nature of the country, technology  – PV solar cells, capacity in terms of skills etc.
  • Conclude with the inevitableness of exploring newer and renewable resources given the conditions of the present global energy crisis.

Answer:

Fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) have, and continue to, play a dominant role in global energy systems. Fossil energy was a fundamental driver of the Industrial Revolution and the technological, social, economic and development progress which has followed. Energy has played a strongly positive role in global change.

India and fossil fuels:

  • As Indian population continues to grow and the limited amount of fossil fuels begins to diminish, it may not be possible to provide the amount of energy demanded by the world by only using fossil fuels to convert energy.
  • India’s current energy use is unsustainable.
  • India has been dependent to a large extent on energy imports to meet its national energy requirements.
  • India imports almost 80% of her oil needs, generates 60% of her electricity from coal-based thermal power plants.
  • However, these being fossil fuels, they are dwindling at quick rates.
  • The geo-political scenario is volatile leading to energy insecurity of India
  • It is estimated that at current rates of production, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54 and coal in 110.
  • Nearly 300 million people in rural India lack access to grid-connected power, promoting the use of archaic sources of energy such as kerosene, diesel, wood-fired chulhas, etc.
  • It not only results in huge government subsidies, but also substantial health and environmental hazards.

Solar energy in India:

  • National Solar Mission envisages establishing India as a global leader in solar energy.
  • The Mission has set the ambitious target of deploying 100GW of grid-connected solar power by 2022. (40 GW Rooftop and 60 GW through Large and Medium Scale Grid Connected Solar Power Projects).
  • The country’s solar installed capacity reached 21 GW as of 31 December 2018.
  • India along with Paris, on the sidelines of UNFCCC’s CoP 21 at Paris (2015) decided to set up International Solar Alliance.
  • The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.

Raw Material for Solar Energy in India and world:

  • A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and chemical phenomenon.
  • The basic component of a solar cell is pure silicon, which is not pure in its natural state.
  • Pure silicon is derived from such silicon dioxides as quartzite gravel (the purest silica) or crushed quartz.
  • The resulting pure silicon is then doped (treated with) with phosphorous and boron to produce an excess of electrons and a deficiency of electrons respectively to make a semiconductor capable of conducting electricity.
  • The silicon disks are shiny and require an anti-reflective coating, usually titanium dioxide.
  • copper, silver, silicon, indium, etc. are also vital to produce existing and future solar technologies.
  • As domestic manufacturing of solar cells and panels was limited, the country is dependent on imports from China and other countries, including Germany.

Distribution of raw materials in India and the world:

  • The silicon that you’ll now find in a solar cell is highly processed. The material is sourced in silica mines, which are often found in regions with heavy quartz concentrations.
  • Silicon is not produced in India, we are totally import-dependent for it. Though we have plenty of sand as raw material, we don’t have the technology to process it into silicon wafers for solar cells or panels
  • Quartz reserves in India are found in Rajasthan, Behror, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Deposits in Rajasthan are spread over the districts of Alwar, Ajmer, Bharatpur, Tonk, Sawai Madhopur, Pali, Udaipur, Churu, and Chittorgarh.
  • Rare earth minerals in India mainly exist in the form of monazite and monazite distributed in coastal placers and inland placers.
  • China is by far the world’s largest producer of silicon, including thereby silicon content for ferrosilicon and silicon metal.
  • Globally, more than 90% of the rare earth metals are located in China.

India although has more than 300 days of sunny weather and the technology to manufacture PV cells to harness solar energy, we lack raw materials. Thus, it is imperative to sign bilateral treaties with countries which have the raw materials to push our solar industries and achieve our target of 100 GW of solar energy.

 

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