Saving Energy with Solar Technology

Dr Archana Verma

Western Railways got its solar electrified cargo train because of the efforts of Om Energy Savers in Mumbai, a company dedicated to developing solar and renewable energy-based solutions for the industry. Ankur Puranik, CEO, Om Energy Savers, explains in this interview the relevance of developing energy saving products in our fast changing, energy intensive world:
How did you get interested in the idea of energy saving and especially renewable energy based electronic products? How has your business grown since its inception?
Om Energy Savers is a family managed business and was started in 2006. We started with manufacturing of electronic ballasts for tube lights, tube light fixtures and some associated lighting products. However we soon realised that the world is moving towards LED revolution and hence entered into manufacturing of LED based lighting products like LED Lamps, LED Emergency lights, LED Tube lights, LED Flood lights etc.  These were products  from the retail products category and we were doing well until 2008 when we started feeling the heat from Chinese products that were available at much less then our manufacturing costs. They looked attractive & were available at throwaway prices. 
With the rapid rising numbers  of  Chinese products being dumped into the Indian markets, our situation started worsening as we were catering only to the retail and home consumer segment through the dealers and distributors. It was time to make a big decision that would affect the future of our company and all the associated people with the business. 
By the end of 2008, we decided to enter into manufacturing Energy saving products. We managed to bag orders from mega companies like Tata, Siemens, Mahindra & Mahindra, BPCL, HPCL, Godrej, Aditya Birla group etc. the list is long. We even got an opportunity to conduct an energy audit at Mr. Ratan Tata’s bungalow  in Alibaug. In the coming 4 to 5 years we see a growth of around 3 to 3.5 times  of our present turnover. In 2014, Om Energy Savers was the first company to provide solar electrification for the Western Railway cargo trains.
You installed the first solar electrified cargo train in India with the Western Railways. Give some details about this cargo train.
The Train compartment was provided with DC operated Ceiling mount fans and DC Operated LED Lights. Also, an additional facility of the  mobile charging was provided for the occupant. The system was designed to provide an uninterrupted backup of 24 hours. The salient features of solar electrified cargo train include a 300 W Solar Generation Roof Top, 12V DC operated ceiling mount fans, 12V DC operated ceiling LED Lights, mobile charging facility, Microcontroller based fully automatic charge controller, fully automatic battery and load management system.
It is believed by a segment of society that solar-powered products are costlier to make and have a high maintenance cost as well. Besides, as compared to petrol fuelled vehicles, solar-powered vehicles are not as efficient and can’t run with high speed. What is your opinion about this? Please give comparative figures.
Solar Powered products are not costly and are much affordable than the traditional energy products. If proper care is taken, there is no high cost maintenance required. When we say Solar Powered Van or Vehicle, we must first know & understand whether it is motive power we are talking about or the power being used for powering other appliances inside the vehicle. In the latter case,  it is without any doubt efficient and practically implementable solution. We have installed solar panels atop many such mobile vans, ATM vans, mobile libraries etc.
 However, if it’s the previous case, (motive power)  then firstly the vehicle  needs to be an EV (Electric Vehicle). Second, there is limitation on the size of PV panel that can be installed on the roof top of the vehicle, thereby making it slightly difficult to implement the concept. In that case, one would have to have a static solar charging station either constructed in the backyard or on the terrace of his home. This would certainly put some limitations on the distance & power that one can achieve with this type of concept & setup. The main problem is the efficiency of the solar panels, which is only around 14% and  due to space vs power equation that comes into picture, its use for certain applications concerning limited space availability is restricted. Hence, the low speeds and lesser commutable distance issues.
What kind of technological improvements are required to make Indian energy saving and renewable energy based products successful in India and abroad?
There are not only technological improvements but other supporting process and procedures which also need to be looked into, to make India a technologically advanced manufacturing hub. Renewable energy & energy conservation are both business with tremendous potential.
What needs to be looked into:
  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Manufacturing with higher quality standards adhering to international standards
  • Lesser taxation  problems (like G.S.T. will be a big relief to all) 
  • Research on achieving higher solar P.V. efficiencies
  • Reducing required permissions and approvals for manufacturing plants to encourage new entrepreneurs to venture into new businesses related to promote energy conservation & renewable energy businesses.  
  • Educating the newer generation about the schemes laid down by MSME for the benefit of Small & Medium Enterprise.
  • Conducting workshops on starting businesses in renewable energy & energy conservation field  which MSMEs are already doing now.