Thank you Siddharth for your time, briefly share the history of Megawatt Solutions and the growth in business so far?
MWS was started in 2009 to fill the technology gap that exists today for reducing carbon emissions footprint emanating from industries and manufacturing plants. The company’s focus has been to indigenously develop clean energy technology and solutions based on solar energy that help industries to reduce fossil fuel consumption for both heating and power, the two business verticals. MWS has successfully been able to do that and prides in indigenous technologies and solutions.
What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges – economic, political, technological, etc. – facing solar power generally, and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) specifically, in India?
CST has made a niche for itself in global energy industry by offering two critical benefits – retrofits into existing thermal energy & power plants and dispatch-ability by thermal storage. Retrofitting concentrated solar thermal fields that generate heat into existing coal-thermal power plants is a very effective means of reducing coal and related emissions without incurring a large capital expenditure as the balance of system (turbine/generators etc.) already exist. This could be huge given the vast coal based capacity in India. Likewise give the existing heating infrastructure in industries that already exsits (boilers etc.) and that this almost consumes 30% of oil import equivalent of fuel, CST offers a very viable and economical way to reduce fuel in industries. The other, thermal storage is equally exciting. The roadmap of heat-based thermal storage compared to Li-Ion or equivalent electrical battery is far most competitive and viable at a grid scale. It’s already happening with 17-hr storage pants going up in the world. India unfortunately has not stepped the pedal on solar thermal and seems to be infatuated by imported PV.
In India, are there particular states or regions where you believe CST has a particularly strong growth potential in coming years? Also, are there particular areas where you believe that CST holds an inherent advantage over PV?
Like any renewables, CST too is more viable in some states than others given the natural and geographical conditions. However, certain parts of HP, J&K, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, AP, TS are particularly blessed. I have already indicated benefits of CST in terms of economical dispatch-ability. However above all CST given its simplicity of material form (Glass, steel, pipes, etc.) can be 100% indigenous unlike PV where we see more than 80% reliance on other countries to fulfill our energy needs. Any long-term sustainable approach should necessarily have a major thrust on CST to avoid handing over our energy reins to imports, like oil.
What are the prospects for solar thermal technologies in India? What are the most promising areas for implementation of solar thermal technologies in India?
All industrial processes are derived by heat and cool. This varies from industry to industry, but the overall share is in more than 30%. For industries such as bitumen, heat forms more than 80% of energy needs. Heating, cooling, evaporation, boiling, sterilization, drying, etc. are all heat derived applications; hence in that sense the possibilities are endless on how and where CST can make an impact. Existing cola plants can effectively utilize the heat from CST to reduce coal consumption & related emissions. Likeiwse, stranded gas-based capacity lying idle due to low gas can be kick started using CST to drive the bottom cycle of a combined cycle power plant. Likewise, oil & gas upstream and downstream infrastructure relies heavily on fossil-fuel generated heat and CST can play a major role there, as is evident by recent GW-scale projects in Oman oil fields etc.
Shed some light on the guideline that the company follows before the installation and for the maintenance of these CST systems?
A typical evaluation starts with deep understanding of existing industrial process that is reliant on fossil fuel. It becomes important o understand the energy requirements, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Thereafter a CST configuration is arrived at which maximizes solar utilization and eliminates any impact onto the end processes. Once integration is finalized in close coordination with customer, the system is installed and integrated. Given the level of automation used, systems are low on maintenance and hence automated operations along with preventive O&M make a very strong value proposition for customers.
Recently you have installed one of India’s first E-Vehicle Charging Solar SmartTree Stations in the National Capital Region, can you share more details with our readers on the same? What type of challenges did you face during installation?
Using coal based energy to charge EVs does not take us far in terms of sustainability. Hence, the need of the hours is to be able to use clean, emission-free solar energy for EV charging. While large grid-connected solar plants may enable that, it becomes critical to recognize the need of urban charging stations, which require a small land footprint and high energy yield density. This was accomplished by MWS SmartTree, a breakthrough configuration that packs more than 7kWp in ground footprint of < 0.5 square meter. A conventional system would require anywhere upto 70 square meters. So the impact is huge. Further the system utilizes a self-powered tracker which allows upto 20% additional generation compared to conventional fixed PV. The system generates upto 6.5 kWh/kWp/day compared to a location with 4 kWh/kWp/day yield. Lastly, the MWS SmartTree is high on aesthetics and can be easily integrated into a elevation of urban spaces etc. All of these breakthrough features made India’s foremost power company, NTPC choose MWS SmartTree to demonstrate the EV charging. We’re glad to be a part of this initiative that will pave the way for India’s EV goals.
What type of safety risks come with E-Vehicle Charging Solar SmartTree Stations? What would be the impact if it rains or it’s exposed to water?
All necessary EV charging safeties are built-in and the system seamlessly provides complete flexibility to charge from solar, battery bank, grid power or any combination of the above. Like any outdoor-rated power electronics, the system is designed to address issues related to weather.
Looking into the aggressive movement of automobile industry towards EV and government initiatives to switch from conventional source of energy to renewables and fuel cell, what type of demand do you see for solar trees in coming years ?
MWS SmartTrees will pay a pivotal role in coming years as India progress towards EV network. These trees are smart, high o aesthetics, require 1/100th the ground space compared to conventional PV, have highest energy yields, are modular & engineered to get integrated easily into urban infrastructure. MWS SmartTrees will create a breakthrough in this space.
Is it possible to install this type of charging station in my house and what is the process for such an installation?
It is possible to install at your house. The process is simple –to understand your load requirements and then allocate a capacity of SmarTree accordingly.
Finally, what are the new products, technologies we are going to see from the house Megawatt Solutions this year, any specific time frame that you would like to share?
MWS will continue the innovation in both verticals of heating and power. In heating, MWS is addressing a very dire need in the industry for waste water treatment and industrial/municipal sludge drying, using solar energy. This is a very exciting and we have achieved very successful results in our pilot project which has been operating for almost an year now. We’re ready to launch the solution, MWS DrySol which addresses the sludge drying requirements of industries and municipalities, all at zero emissions and practically free.
In power vertical, we are gradually expanding our SmartTree platform with more modular modular EV charging options and integrating Internet of Things (IoT) to provide a complete EV charging solution with diagnostics and analytics. This will vastly enable charging infrastructure and consequently, adoption of EVs to meet the ambitious goals set forward by India.
Through continuous innovation powered indigenously, MWS is poised to play a very critical and pioneering role as India charts it’s growth towards a sustainable energy future.
(This Interview was originally published in April issue of Climate Samurai)