Scientists at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) in West Bengal have installed a ‘solar tree’ that is likely to be the largest of its kind in the world.
“This is the largest solar tree as per our knowledge producing up to 11,500 watts (11.5kw). The second largest tree has been set up in London and produces around 8.6 kw,” said Harish Hirani, director of CMERI, the country’s apex research and development institute for mechanical engineering under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
A solar tree is a metal structure resembling a tree that has solar panels fitted on the branches. The solar panels connected through metal branches produces solar power. The CMERI solar tree has 35 panels each with a capacity of 330 watts.
“Producing around 12,000–14,000 units of clean and green power in a year, the solar tree has the potential to save 10–12 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere every year,” he said.
One of the main hurdles while setting up solar panels on a large scale and for producing huge amount of renewable energy is availability of land. The inclination of the tree arms (tree branches) holding the panels can be adjusted to get the maximum output, a feature which is not available in roof top panels. The CMERI developed solar tree costs around Rs 7.5 lakh.
“Solar trees because of their design use less space and hence can produce more power per unit area. But one of the major hurdles of solar tree is its capital investment. This pushes up the cost of one unit of electricity produced. The cost is almost double than that of solar roof top panels which takes around Rs 3.5 to produce one unit,” said SP Gon Choudhury, renewable energy expert and a Green Oscar awardee.
The scientists at CMERI said that as the shadow area is minimum in solar trees they could be set up in agricultural farms to run pumps, e-tractors and tillers as an alternative to diesel. The excess power can be sent to the grid providing economic return to farmers.
“This solar tree is a quantum leap towards making an energy reliant and carbon negative India,” said Hirani.