Solar Roofs: Countering Ecological Concerns of Installing Solar Farms in India?

Highlights :

  • Solar roofs are popular as car parking sheds in the US and Europe
  • Large-scale solar energy projects come with several ecological and social costs

When one speaks of solar rooftops, generally an image of solar panels on private residences or small commercial buildings comes to mind. However, solar roofs are increasingly becoming a crucial source of generating renewable rooftop solar power worldwide. In addition to its solar rooftop installations on individual residences, India also needs to realise the potential and opportunity that the country holds for installing solar roofs.

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India is going to fall short of its target of achieving 40 GW of grid-connected solar rooftops by the end of the current year. The gap in terms of installed capacity for rooftops from its target was 69 per cent, as of August 2022. While there can be many reasons for this wastefulness, India must focus on how to compensate for the shortfall and pace-up solar installations for its renewable energy goals, anyway.

Countering Ecological Concerns

Envisaged in 2015, the 40 GW Rooftop Solar target was part of the 175 GW of renewable energy plan that India aimed to achieve by 2022. The later revision saw the plan ramping up to 450 GW by 2030. Interestingly, in both scenarios, large-scale solar power projects take the lion’s share. Large-scale solar power projects have their share of challenges.

Problems Associated With Large Solar Farms

The large-scale renewable energy projects come with several ecological and social costs, to which communities of scientists and conservationists often pitched rooftop solar as an alternative. Moreover, large-scale renewable power projects have been facing stiff resistance from the communities losing land to them.

Solar farms also require a lot of water for maintenance. Thus, in places of water scarcity, such as Rajasthan, this automatically becomes an issue of concern. Further, ground-mounted solar panels lead to the loss of existing vegetation. This further puts pressure on the survival of species due to loss of habitat.

Can solar roofs solve these issues?

Generating solar power close to where it will be used is more sensible than wasting efforts and energy in managing and transmitting power from distant parks. This outweighs the advantage of building huge solar farms on enormous tracts of land at cheaper costs.

Government policy measures will go a long way in this. The land is always a problem. Thus, it makes more sense to go for distributed photovoltaic rather than centralised. The lack of any such policy supporting solar roofs could be the main reason India is still a laggard. An example of how solar roofs would look in India is Solar panel car parking sheds in Solar Based EV Charging parks. Solar roofs of sheds would generate free electricity, while at the same time solving the land issues. The only challenge is the initial CAPEX that it would need.

Solar panel car parking sheds are already popular in the US and Europe. The solar panel parking sheds are like the regular sheds, with the only difference being that the roofs of these sheds have solar panels. The concept is still at a growing stage in India.

Look West

India needs to consider solar roofs like Western nations. The power generation need not be limited to farms in remote places. France’s latest legislation is the best example that India must notice.

The French Senate approved new legislation that requires all car parks with space for more than 80 cars to cover those spaces with solar roofs. This will not only lead to more renewable energy but also cheaper energy for the EVs parked under those solar roofs. The legislation also talks about a considerable fine to check the sincere implementation. In case of failure to comply in time, a fine of 50 euros per parking spot per month will be imposed.

The policy isn’t haphazard though. It exempts the parking lots having architectural, environmental, heritage, or other proven restraints, and car parks that have at least half of the property shaded by trees. In addition, parking lots for heavy goods vehicles – over 7.5 metric tons – also do not require to comply.

Such an orderly approach is required in India too to boost its solar energy. Apart from in parking sheds, solar roofing of residential and commercial buildings may also be an area for consideration. It is now more relevant in the country’s growing urgency of climate change efforts.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.

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