Accepting and promoting green energy through solar is amounting to be the one in a million ideas that promise to revolutionize and reform the world in a hurry. And Indian Government is decisively supporting solar, envisioning an energy rich country that fosters socio-economic reform. However, India being home to 17.86% (and growing) of global population, face continued shrinkage of available vacant space for solar panel installation. In such a scenario India has taken the second step towards revolution, incorporating creative engineering choices, harvesting solar energy on top of canals and water bodies.

Is It a Suitable Replacement of Land?

It is more than suitable. Besides solving space constraints, the water-solar panel nexus can stop evaporation of water. Approximately 100 sqft of area is required for a meagre 1 Kw solar plant. And if we compare, we will see that space required for a 100 MW thermal power plant is less than 10 per cent of what a 100 MW solar plant would need. So, it is fair to assume that if not now, in near future using available land mass for solar installation will face flak. So, using waterbodies for solar generation is not just commendable, it is necessary for India and the world to secure the future of green energy, which serves our own individual and communal needs.

Now that we have factually settled the argument regarding the viability of using canal top and floating solar ideas, let us delve into the rising water crisis, that solar generation on water bodies can solve.

Serving Energy Saving Water

Not just a catchy line, it is one of the many major benefits of establishing more and more canal top and floating solar plants. India’s rapidly mushrooming population is estimated to reach 1.7 billion within 2050. But, challenges in providing clean, safe drinking water throughout the nation has always been constant in the country (and expected to rise with the population). Currently more than 76 million people in India still do not have access to clean and safe water supply. If the situation persists, India is estimated to face a 50 per cent water deficit within 2030. It is surprising because India is not a water scare country. We are blessed with rivers and our annual rainfall stand to 1170 millimetres (average). A closer inspection of the problem would show you that it is evaporation, pollution, and contamination that create clean water scarcity in the country.

As a remedy, we have the engineering marvel, that is capable enough to support solar panels on waterbodies and canal tops, saving water, while generating energy. These types of solar installations can reduce water evaporation, reduce growth rate of algae, and can become the reason to safe guard water bodies from waste disposal, keeping fresh water reserves in check.

The Inception and Growth

Canal Top Solar:

2012 was the year when the canal top solar installation in Gujarat, India, came out of the drawing board and started turning into reality. Having canals stretching to 80,000 kilometers, made Gujarat the perfect candidate for this project. After completion of the first project (1 MW capacity), Gujarat has taken multiple initiatives in establishing similar projects on canals understanding that approximately 90 million liters of water can be saved from evaporation through completely covering the canals in the state. 10 MW capacity solar installation on Narmada canals in Gujarat in 2015, has received commendations in global podium as well. Currently near about 100 MW of solar plant installations on and beside canals are in different stages of implementation in eight Indian states. Gujarat can serve as an example for the rest of the states in India to protect water while promoting green energy.

Floating Solar:

In 2015, India saw its first floating solar plant in Kolkata, West Bengal (one of the innovative projects of Vikram Solar). Being a lot challenging (from engineering standpoint) than any other solar plant installation type, the first of its kind floating plant received worldwide attention, and cleared a lot of confusion, showcasing best path to use- irrigation ponds, waste water treatment plants, drinking water reservoirs, water storage tanks, large lakes, dams and other waterbodies to harvest green energy, while saving water.

The first 10 kW project was just the beginning and drawing inspiration from the project, India aggressively started installing floating solar plants over water bodies. In March 2017, India installed its then largest 100 kW floating solar plant at Kayamkulam, Kerala. And within just 7 months (October) broke its own record installing 500 kW capacity plant in the same state (Kerala). It is estimated that if the country succeeds in utilizing even 1% of its 11583 square miles of contained water bodies through floating solar, it could generate more power than 15 medium to large coal fired power stations.

Understanding the implications of such endeavours, India has plans to install more than 20 MW of floating solar plants in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. New projects are coming up and the future seems bright for floating solar sector in India.

These installation ideologies are only supported by engineering excellence, and it is a delight to see that we are changing, we are re-prioritizing our needs and trying to find a single solution for multiple problems. The way we are raising our efforts in protecting what is at stake (energy, water, the planet), assures future of solar energy; ultimately offering us sustainability as a legacy for the next generation.

However, the efforts need to be increased if we are to save primary elements of sustenance like water and energy, and fortunately we have already found the all-in-one solution in solar.

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  • One thousand units of ConextTM XW+ hybrid inverters at 5.5 kW and 6.8 kW power levels are being made available to distributors in Puerto Rico
  • These Conext XW+ units will immediately generate reliable power in Puerto Rico

Livermore, California, December 21, 2017 – Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation is providing critical disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico markets leveraging their massive global infrastructure and local support.

Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico over 90 days ago and many residents are still without power making this the longest major blackout in U.S. history. Officials have estimated it could take four to six months to restore the power grid to full functionality. Schneider Electric is supporting the rebuild of several major solar and energy storage plants and aiding the locals by rapidly deploying off-grid products to regain power to their homes.

One thousand ConextTM XW+ hybrid inverters at 5.5 kW and 6.8 kW power levels are being made available to distributors in Puerto Rico. “Schneider Electric is continuing to support relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The Conext XW+ hybrid inverter is a unique off-grid solution. Our intent in supplying these units is to retrofit the existing non-functional photovoltaic systems that can provide much-needed power immediately. When the grid comes back online, the Conext XW+ units will work in conjunction with the grid and support its capabilities over the long term,” said Evan Vogel, Vice President of Marketing, Schneider Electric Solar.

As a business with a large local presence in Puerto Rico, local Schneider Electric teams are working with customers to offer relief to the affected areas. The primary focus is to ensure people regain access to reliable, safe energy as soon as possible.

As you enjoy the Christmas festivities, perhaps toast the people on the South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC). In mid-November, my friend Robert Swan and his son Barney Swan started a walk across Antarctica to get to the South Pole sometime in January. With them is videographer Kyle and guide Martin. Traversing Antarctica is an extraordinary journey to embark upon and a feat of physical endurance that few people could attempt. But Rob has set the team an even more remarkable challenge; they will make this journey powered entirely by renewable energy. Their goal is to highlight the role that renewable energy can play in a 21st Century energy system that leads to no net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

That energy will come from two sources; a solar energy system adapted for the conditions by NASA and a supply of advanced biofuels. The latter was developed solely for this trip by Shell, using a technology that turns solid waste into biofuels, produced at the Shell Technology Centre in Bangalore, India. On a standard polar expedition, each person uses around 200-250 millilitres of jet aviation fuel per day. This fuel is used sparingly for heat, to melt ice to provide water and for cooking. SPEC is pioneering a different approach to managing the energy needs for polar expeditions. Using passive solar thermal systems, a NASA designed ice melter, and advanced biofuels the team will attempt to use a renewable energy mix to sustain their water, heating and cooking needs. Additionally, they will be using solar technology to charge lithium batteries that will power their camera and communication devices.

Day 15 Rob using bio fuel 05 Dec 2018

The story behind this and the relationship with Shell goes back over a century to the Scott Antarctic Expedition of 1912. Rob initially approached Shell for expedition funding in the 1980s, when he set out to walk to South Pole for the first time. This was the beginning of his own relationship with Antarctica, which he intends to see preserved as a pristine continent sized ecosystem. For that journey, Rob convinced Shell that as the company had sponsored the original Scott expedition, he was a worthy recipient to continue that practice. In a like for like manner, Shell supplied fuel for the expedition ship, as they had supplied fuel for the Scott expedition.

The 1912 expedition became part of the early Shell legend of supplying fuel for all purposes under all conditions and at the time featured in various Shell advertisements. One such example is shown below.

Shell and Scott

The company was subsequently involved in other expeditions, including the Shackleton Expedition.


The 2017 Swan Expedition continues, although in the run-up to Christmas the team was faced with a difficult decision. Despite grueling conditions, including extreme winds and freezing temperatures, they reached the half way point just after mid-December, but the pace had not been as hoped. With the longest day of the year behind them the team will begin to lose sunlight leading to extreme cold, which now leads to something of a race against time to ensure the trek is successfully completed before the short expedition season closes. Under these circumstances, Robert decided to return to Base Camp at Union Glacier to allow the team to move along at a faster pace. He will however meet back up with the SPEC team at the 89th parallel to complete the last 60 miles of the expedition to arrive at the Geographic South Pole.

Robert will continue to play a lead role in the expedition and is determined to ensure that the rest of the team, together with his son Barney, complete this historic challenge. They’re doing it to raise awareness of the need for more and cleaner energy, and continue the Antarctic legacy set by Robert in the 1980s and continued through his 2041 Foundation.

These are two great ambitions that Shell is proud to be part of. So am I. Back in 2009 Robert invited me to speak about climate change to participants on his annual 2041 Expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then, people from Shell have been involved in every expedition, either as participants or as climate and energy speakers. Following the SPEC Expedition, Robert and Barney will be back on the Antarctic Peninsula in late February with a large group of young people, all eager to learn about SPEC and to better understand the climate issue. ClimateForce 2018 will kick off a series of new climate change initiatives for the father and son team and I am proud to say I will be there at the start of yet another adventure.

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018.

As this eventful year in the solar energy industry draws to a close, we wish you and your family a peaceful and relaxing holiday season.

May you have joy and success in whatever the New Year holds for you.

We look forward to working together in 2018 as we continue to advance the global energy transition.

Our SMA headquarter offices will be closed for the holidays starting December 22 and will reopen on January 2, 2017. As usual, you can use Online Service Center during the holidays. Please note that replies to your inquiries might be delayed.

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