Solar rays are penetrating deeper into our lives. Solar energy is making its presence felt in homes, appliances, transport services and the construction sector. Solar lanterns, heaters, street lights and cookers are passé. They were first-generation applications. Now the frontiers have extended beyond heating and lighting.

Innovators are looking at taking the green and inexhaustible source of energy to areas undreamt of in the past. The energy generated from photovoltaic cells and films is now powering pumps, farm operations and crematoriums, guarding critical data stores and helping distillation and effluent plants.

While Karnataka proposes to install solar power units to the tune of 200 MW by 2015-16, a number of technology companies are already into the arena with equipment and gizmos running on solar power that kick off dependence on the erratic grid power, guzzling fossil fuels.

For all sites

The latest product to pop up on the solar scene is Solarator, a solar alternative to the mobile generator. Manufactured by HHV Solar, Dobbespet, near Bangalore, Solarators could light up campsites, disaster sites or even construction sites with 2KWh output and 600 watt input. The trailer-mounted Solarators were launched at the recently held Solarcon India 2012 in Bangalore.

According to H.R. Vasuki, General Manager-Operations, HHV Solar, it can be carried or airlifted to disaster sites and is a green source of power which can last for six hours. The photo-voltaic panels mounted on the trailer convert sunlight into electricity without causing noise or air pollution. A fully sealed water-proof compartment at the bottom of the trailer houses all electronic and electrical components to prevent a short circuit.

The generator’s two solar modules use mono crystalline silicon cells to generate 300 watt power each by converting sunlight into electricity. The Solarator is compactly foldable while being moved and blossoms out with its solar panels catching sunlight at the site. It could even be a boon for relief and rescue operations, and for fire-fighting personnel as it could be connected to lights, pumps, surgery equipment or lifting machines. At Rs. 4 lakh a unit, the company which has invested Rs. 50 crore in the venture expects large orders from big farms in the West.

For the farm sector

Solar water pumps have made a huge splash in agricultural fields. Several manufacturers have begun producing such pumps with onsite solar power production facility with the help of PV cells. Thejaswi Bhat, who heads Grundfos Pumps, says the company has already sold nearly 2,500 such pumps in the Indian market since it began its operation in 2006. The pumps allow water to be drawn from 200 metres below the ground and could also be integrated with wind turbine if the wind conditions are conducive.

The company produces the pumps in technical collaboration with a Danish company BJerrings at its facility in Chennai.

Arraytech Technologies does the same job in a more environment-friendly manner. It has inducted second-generation PV cells where more polluting cadmium has been replaced by thin PV films made of an alloy of copper, indium and selenium. Prabhuraj from the company says the pumps can work at even low sunshine level and can be in the range of six to 12 HP.

Enertech, a company from Pune, takes care of solar power production for all such areas in big installations which are critical in terms of safety, security and emergency. For instance, the company has installed a 60KW solar plant at the Tulja Bhavani temple in Maharashtra where stampedes are feared during festivals held at nights. The power load is shifted to the solar facility in the event of outages in the grid connection.

For data security

The company has installed a 20KW plant at the Bombay Stock Exchange where data security is of key importance and power failure even for a second can result in losses in terms of millions of rupees while trading is on. Vijay Deshpande, Managing Director, Enertech, told this scribe that the company can now produce solar power producers up to 100 KW capacity.

While the installation at the Tulja Bhavani temple had been the largest so far, the company has installed plants of lesser capacity at the Jama Masjid in Srinagar where the public address system is run on solar power. Similarly, Jalgaon airport, Mineral Energy Company in Nagpur and a thermal power station have connected themselves to solar power producing equipment from Enertech. According to Deshpande, lighting in passageways in certain facilities, CCTVs in airports or servers in IT industries or police control rooms are of critical importance. Huge installations which need security lights shift power loads to solar backups which provide 10 to 20 hours of uninterrupted power supply.

Home appliances

While several companies and the solar enthusiast from Hubli, Mahesh V.S. of Sunray Solar Systems, have been producing solar lanterns at an affordable price of around Rs. 2,500, Arun Kulkarni’s Motion Controls from Pune has made inroads into solar ceiling and pedestal fans.

His ceiling fans can operate with six-volt inbuilt solar powered batteries. Exposed to five hours of sunshine, they can run for five hours. He has sold over 2,000 fans in the last four years.

For labourers

Mahesh has come up with a solar cap with a minuscule fan fitted under the shade of the cap, powered by a PV cell film mounted on the upper side. Mahesh says the cap can be used by batsmen in cricket matches or construction labourers working under the torrid sun. It is ideal for trekkers, walkers and joggers too.