Not only the ease of installation & maintenance, but LEDs when integrated with SPV has the added advantage of bringing down the capital cost as power requirement of LEDs are far lower than that of conventional lighting systems.
While unfolding the developments on the solar LED streetlights in India, we found out that in the beginning of the decade, there was a pilot program in Shahabad – a town and a municipal board in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh. The area was experiencing erratic electricity supply due to which municipal council wanted to explore alternative lighting sources for meeting the lighting needs of people. Philips Lighting (now Signify) team demonstrated the superior features and benefits of Solar LED streetlights through pilot installation. Based on the benefits seen during the pilot phase, customer agreed to opt for Solar LED street lights and installed it at various places within the town’s jurisdiction.
This reminds me a conversation with Harshvardhan Chitale, CEO, Philips Lighting (now Signify) for South Asia. While speaking to LED World, he shared that India is facing severe light poverty as almost 20% the country’s population has no access to electricity. To which, solutions such as solar LED system can be able to bring far less expensive, sustainable, healthier and environmentally-friendly lighting to address the illumination issues especially for their schools, farms, village streets, etc. “This solar mission, driven jointly by the government and the private sector, can really help in taking the Prakash Path initiative to all of rural India where electricity is unavailable or erratic,” he said.
Prakash Path is a government scheme and a result of the central government’s vision under which, converting 100% of India’s lights by making use of the potentials that LEDs are attributed to can save us 20,000 MW of power consumption and help us make reliable power available to every citizen of India. And why not! As we all know lighting accounts for 19% of global electricity consumption, yet even the simplest of changes–a universal switch to LED lighting–would reduce this proportion to about 7%, curbing global CO2 emissions by about 1,400 megatons by 2030.
But the extent of Solar LED lighting did not remain restricted only to the wary rural areas as continuously escalating cost of electricity and rising demand of power have together left no alternative but solar power to be used extensively as the source for energy. This is why in an energy-starved country like India; public spaces now and in future are expected to get illuminated with this new but relatively cheaper system, which at the same time is maintenance-free, easy to install, longer life expectancy, almost anti-theft and affordable. Solar LED street lighting is a customised lighting system that brings light to those without access to reliable electrical lighting.
State of the Industry
According to Elcoma, the Rs. 22,000-crore Indian lighting industry is bursting at it seems and is expected to reach to Rs. 27,000 crore by 2020. “Today, we have around 50% of total lighting converted in to LEDs, which by 2020 would be touching 80%. This clearly shows that we are about to achieve manufacturing prowess in LED lighting,” suggested Shyam Sujan, Secretary General, Elcoma while emphasising its pro-active role in helping the industry grow – both technology wise and capacity wise.
He informed that Elcoma under its Vision 2020 had set a target of 30 million streetlights and 50 million downlights to help the country save 27,000 MW of peak power. “The energy consumption in lighting at present is around 18%, which would come down to 13%, once we meet our target,” he anticipated adding that soon all lighting in the public domain would be intelligent lighting starting from the proposed 100 cities. “The thrust of the government towards creating an illuminated India has many takeaways for the industry.”
Government’s Enhanced Focus
Venkatesh Dwivedi, CGM (Technical), Street Lighting National Program (SLNP), EESL, agreed and appreciated that whatever limited success has been achieved till date is only because of the industry’s belief in the government and its agencies to take forward this important task, which in turn put the lighting industry on a price war but for better results. He emphasised that in the streetlight segment there has always been a discussion on how to control the prices and how to get more out of it.
“From day one, EESL has been pitching the streetlight segment to key decision makers as lights with individual lamp control. However, we were not able to actually deliver such solution because unlike the DELP, in SLNP the price was bigger barrier followed by the ambiguity in selection of the technology to be adopted for individual or group level lamp control solution whether it is CCMS, GSM-based, RF/ Zigbee or a combination of these.”
“At EESL, we have been working with Elcoma in coordination of which a committee has been set up to evaluate various technologies to find out the most appropriate and the best suitable one. This has become the priority as already about 30 million streetlights are there on the roads across the country. This number will be double in not more than just a decade time owing to tremendous development in the pipeline,” said Dwivedi.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
Advocating the advancement in technology, Ranjit Singh, Associate Vice President, Surya Roshni Ltd. stated that group control and monitoring system based on GSM /GPRS/ 3G/4G/ or an equivalent proven technology, installed in a feeder or central switching point for remote monitoring and controlling group of streetlights have been successfully delivering the desired results enabling the stakeholders to schedule tasks, collect data & prepare analysis reports, based on which the system can send alerts.
But at the same time Singh also highlighted a list of bottlenecks in the way when it comes to switching over to the intelligent and smart lighting system. “There are a few challenges in the form of non-availability of GPRS signal, lack of ways to combat power pilferage, ambiguity in selection of control system/technology, installation of lights & equipment, and most important is the absence of needed infrastructure to withstand the technology advancements in time to come.
To which, Rahul Sharma, Deputy Manager (Tech.) at EESL, agreed when he said, “We need to improvise the basic infrastructure at the ground level to make it compatible for the upcoming technological advancements. New innovative models with operational flexibility should be put in place. For smooth progress of the projects, there should be the provision of proper financing without any break. Besides, there must have been an on-going capacity building program to keep feeding the project on continuous basis or as and when required so that the project should not go on a halt for the lack of resources.”
Adding more to it, Gautam Seth, Jt. Managing Director, HPL Electric & Power Ltd. said, “For now, there is no development! But with the time passing by and the requirements getting generated, the concerned state governments are also working on upgrading the basic infrastructure. For instance, we got our first order of smart city lighting from Bhopal, where all the streetlights were to be inter-connected through the CCMS system to the smart poles wherein every streetlight could be controlled through a centralised server using a protocol.
When we initiated, the basic infrastructure was not in place but eventually while the installation started happening, the communication system also got developed and the central server rooms were created. This is how it goes hand in hand. So, now when we see the change coming in, it is going to lead a big transformation where the infrastructure is also augmented and upgraded to meet the needed requirements. There is no reason why the technologies will not be upgraded and implemented. But for all this to happen, time is needed. Also, for having robust systems, especially keeping in view the Indian conditions; rigorous R&D is going on,” Seth elaborated.
Advocating the developments, Gaurav Bhalla, Deputing General Manager-Lighting COD, Jaquar Lighting, insisted that the time is apt to react through IoT. “Smart street lighting system comes with a lot of features like environment sensors, billboards for advertising purposes, security cameras, EV chargers, Wi-Fi system along with the lighting – all without complex wiring, but can communicate with each other through IoT.
“We are now developing systems, which are compatible with the existing infrastructure. All these are helping LED lighting to penetrate deeper with every passing day, where main drivers are comforts attached to it be it safety/security or smart home automation. All are connected through IoT and can be controlled from anywhere through smart app enabling users to have ease in operation with huge energy saving,” he said.
Solar LED Streetlights – Answer to Many How!
Integrated Solar LED Streetlights are becoming very popular in India to illuminate the streets due to its compact design and integrated features. The bulky conventional street lights are getting replaced by the fancy streetlights with advanced features like motion sensors and specific spot lighting features. Integrated all-in-one solar LED streetlight produces its own power and uses lowest power consumption technology. Therefore, it is ideal for remote/ inaccessible areas. It can be used at roads, streets, railway gates, parks, boundary walls, hotels, hospitals, etc.
A switch to LED lighting is a necessary first step in the sequence of energy-efficient innovation. LED consumes at least 40% less energy than conventional lighting. The potential savings from connected lighting–where intelligent LEDs, embedded with sensors and connected wirelessly, can be managed remotely via the Internet–can reach 80%. Adding more benefits to the system is the solar PV modules which make the whole system self-sustaining.
The decision process behind these innovative lighting choices has highlighted the potential for solar installations to tackle global challenges in agriculture, education, health and public infrastructure that includes public space lighting. Adopting the best and cleanest technologies can create millions of new jobs within few years and slash the energy bills by a third.
Adding more to the ecstasy is deteriorating power conditions, increasing cost of electricity, and rising fuel (diesel) prices, which together are aiding to the proliferation of solar LED lighting especially the streetlights – be it rural or urban. Meanwhile, rapid urbanisation is expanding the panorama of lighting needs in the form of tunnels, stadiums, parks, roads, public spaces, corporate buildings, streets, etc., thereby opening up an all new window of business opportunities.
Notably, lighting is not just about energy-saving and illumination, but also it helps improve the quality of life by making the space safer, more liveable, productive and secure simply by lighting up public spaces. Ideally in any geography, lighting contributes to almost 20 to 30% of electricity consumption. As the pace of development increases, it will further escalate the demand for lighting.
An Alternative to Grid Power
An individual LED gives a maximum output of 1200 lumen. Luminaires are configured out of around 3 to 60 LEDs. Solid state, white, opto semiconductor LEDs in conjunction with solar photovoltaic (PV) have the potential for garnering energy independent of the grid, especially in areas of weak and unreliable power supply.
It is, therefore, said that solar PV-powered LED systems are ideally suited for rural areas where grids are weak and there are frequent disruptions and outages of conventional electric power. Solar LED light is emerging as an alternative to the grid-powered conventional street lighting systems in rural areas because of their superiority in energy-efficiency, lumen depreciation, uninterrupted operation and zero maintenance.
Furthermore, LED is a continuously evolving technology, becoming affordable with each passing day and it serves as an ideal energy saving solution in the street lighting sector – both, portable as well as in-situ technology. The energy efficiency of LEDs (as claimed and recorded by the LED technology giants) which was around 100lumen/W in 2008 went up to 132 in 2009, 231 in 2011, 300 in 2015 and now crossing over 400 lumen/W. The field efficiencies are presently around 90-100 lumen/W. The difference in the laboratory and field conditions is on account of the operating temperature and other factors such as operating current, linkage to driver and battery unit, etc.
There are other features also as why these miniature LEDs are upping the ante. Attributes like UV-resistant, weather-proof, unbreakable, super-lamination, etc. together make the LEDs robust enough to withstand harsh weather condition. Basically, the mode of building up luminaires of a large size is through clustering of miniature sources into a lamp.
Opening Doors of Opportunities
All these developments clearly shows the potential of Indian lighting market, which forced companies like Signify to setup its manufacturing unit in India. In a recent move, Dutch multinational Signify erstwhile, Philips Lighting has relocated its global solar business to India. The company plans to sell made in India solar products like integrated street light sun-stay in Europe and America as well. The company is developing the first product in the world which they will call Sun Stay where the solar panels, the battery and the light source are embedded in the same luminaire at the same time.
Brands like Havells, Bajaj, Surya, etc. are already incorporating latest technologies to be in tune with time, while new players found this phase so lucrative that they chose to establish their own brands despite being suppliers to the leaders as OEMs for years. We met three such incumbents to discuss their respective products, UPS & marketing strategies. To our surprise, even the well-known FMCG brand Patanjali found this area so lucrative to enter and create space for itself. Obviously, such entry would increase the hit within the industry to see how the established leaders plan their rule over.
SolMitra – Solar is a Powerful Friend
It was various government programmes towards illuminating India that attracted many players to move in the segment and tap their part of the expanded chunk of the pie. “We came to know that the government is investing huge money funding rural areas especially the gram panchayats for illumination purposes, which we sense as an opportunity,” revealed Atul Mishra, Director, SolMitra Power & Steel Pvt. Ltd.
According to him, earlier people were importing all these lights but suddenly when the government made the BIS mandatory, the import market got a severe hit. “This pushed the indigenous manufacturing to many steps ahead. And since, we recognised it way ahead, we planned accordingly and are now ready with our products to serve the lighting needs of the country,” said Mishra.
He informed that SolMitra Power & Steel Pvt. Ltd. is an integrated all in one solar company based out of Bengaluru, Karnataka. With an industrial shop floor area of 45,550 Sq. Ft., the company boasts of a variety of product lines and a massive indigenous manufacturing capacity. “SolMitra has been setup with the motivation to make a users’ process of going solar in a hassle-free & cost-effective manner, and hence, empowering all the key stakeholders by making them an integral part of the renewable energy drive, across the country.”
Speaking on the unique brand name, SolMitra, Mishra takes it to define as the conjugation of two words – one each from India & west that are wedded together. “Sol is a Greek word for solar and Mitra stands for friend in India resulting in the emergence of our brand SolMitra,” he said sharing that the promoters behind the brand SolMitra carry a wide spectrum of experience and have been a part of the solar industry for the around two decades carrying out integral functions such as sales, consulting, supply and servicing.
Elaborating further on the all-in-one concept, he said, “Unlike the existing ones with separate box for storage, we have the all new integrated solar streetlights with inbuilt storage system in one single panel. No extra housing is to be attached for batteries, in process, making it more likely an anti-theft unit. Ours is an all-in-one solar streetlight that comes with integrated solar photo voltaic module, charging controller and LifePO4 battery – combined with high output LEDs and human infrared sensor thereby bringing multiple features such as high luminance, long lifespan, minimal maintenance and easy installation.”
Explaining as why the concept is picking up, Mishra stated, “With development all round, rapidly increasing demand of energy has taken the cost of electricity on an alarming rate, which has not yet stabilised and is continuously on the surge. This makes not only the governments focusing on the development in rural area where the grid line is still a dream project, but also private entrepreneurs who are in dire need of cost-effective solutions to opt for it for illumination needs of their warehouses, corporate offices, factories, etc.”
The major USP is that it doesn’t need any wiring and works standalone. “In earlier format, there was a problem and probability of theft as the storage was not secure. But for the latest integrated solar LED streetlights, once installed, it is maintenance-free for the given life time, which we are offering five years for the lighting and housing parts while for storage system, it’s three years. Further, it comes with dusk-to-dawn sensors, which allow the system to sense the intensity of lights or its necessity to get illuminated automatically. Apparently, no monitoring or control is needed,” he elaborated.
On the quality front, Mishra suggested that SolMitra is registered with Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). “All our streetlights come tested with an NABL-accredited lab, which has already issued the needed certificates for mandatory standards of the lights, the luminary, the battery-packs, and the IP-ratings – following the guidelines issued by the Ministry. For our streetlights, we are using the mono-crystalline PV panels for having more density, and hence, more sunlight absorption. It takes 4-5 hours to get fully charged to disburse uninterrupted lights for eight-ours.”
On manufacturing front, the company has a very robust infrastructure. “For now, we have capacity to produce 80,000 streetlights in a year, which we are in a process to expand and reach to a scorching number of 3 lakh units annually. The one-acre facility is about to become operational in the next couple of months. Apart from that we are also making 500 battery packs in a day for which the capacity varies from 12.5V to 320V.”
Backed by a strong team of experienced designers and engineers, SolMitra has completed various domestic industrial projects since its inception and leads a highly trained and disciplined team of technicians to execute the best quality of work and ethics well within deadlines. “We have installed more than 6,000 streetlights by now in and around the state of Karnataka catering to the government projects for illuminating rural India,” informed Mishra, who believes that the competition will be there with the established players but SolMitra has an edge of over them for warranties that are more than what the giants are offering on their products.
“In a span of just two years, we have achieved an award from IIT Guwahati for the best innovative product of the year, which is only boosting us for more. For our solar LED streetlights, we are sourcing LEDs from proven technology giants like Osram, which are known for their lumens quality – here it is 135 lumens/W. Besides, we are using lenses which allow 140 degree viewing angle. In normal LED lights, the illumination varies from 900 lumens to 2000 lumens/W whereas ours come with 2700 lumens/W, which is much more than those currently available in the market,” he asserted.
Patanjali – Quality Products at Right Pricing
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd., the consumer goods products upstart, recently diversified into solar power equipment manufacturing, wherein Solar Streetlight is one of the major thrust of the organisation. “Baba’s vision is to take forward the goal of the government in line with the Swadeshi movement. With Patanjali foraying into solar, we dream of a better illuminated India in time to come,” said Sudhir Garg, Director, Patanjali Renewable Energy Pvt. Ltd. Notably, this is the company’s first exposure to the infrastructure sector and comes after its runaway success in consumer products.
Delving further on the need to enter this segment, Garg added, “It’s the right time now for various state governments to opt for solar LED streetlights to illuminate public spaces. As we all know, India is working to improve its per capita power consumption of around 1,200 kWh, this newly solar embedded system can help save huge power just by installing at public spaces, using latest technologies and sensor-based controls, besides attributes like standalone integrated lighting fixture/system, two-day power backup, easy installation – needs no wiring, almost zero maintenance, etc.”
Garg suggested that the solar LED streetlights are nothing but a step closer to the government’s rural electrification drive. Patanjali’s latest renewable energy product, solar streetlight comes with unique features and robust design (all-in-one), which make these light points highly reliable for Indian conditions. “Our solar LED streetlights sport high-efficiency Patanjali Solar PV modules, which are comparatively very compact. Its unique feature of panel adjustment according to the location makes it more efficient. We have our own solar PV and battery manufacturing facility,” said Garg.
Powered with LiFePO4 batteries, the maintenance-free integrated solar streetlights are ready to use, very easy to install, charges battery even in cloudy days, and attributes a remote monitoring unit. “Soon, we are planning to add health monitoring feature in it, which will be accessible through a cell phone app. Further, each of our products comes with a QR code as a mark of reliability and authenticity, scanning of which would automatically induce users to register for warranty,” he asserts.
He informed that at present the company is in process of setting up and soon it will be able to manufacture 12,000 units of streetlights a month. “We want to offer quality products at right pricing for an elongated service to the nation. We will offer remote monitoring system of lighting that we are still working on. Further, we are also going to introduce a health monitoring system app which once downloaded in the mobile can facilitate health monitoring through these lights. For all these, we have invested around 50Cr and have plans to further invest Rs.100 Cr.”
According to Garg, the company will also come up with a very handy app which will be made available to the concerned vendors – corporation or institution – to facilitate them with alerts for required measures to be taken to keep the lights functional. It may be for deteriorating battery power or lumens level. “For all this and many more, we are in talks with the global lighting giant, Philips (Signify) for a possible technological collaboration to offer the best quality lighting system. Once finalised, we will have all the latest technology incorporated in our solar lighting system.”
Patanjali’s main thrust is to cater to the areas where there is no grid power or if available, are erratic or very weak. “For this reason, we have selected North East to start with where the condition is far more miserable. This provides us huge potential which we want to make the most by offering cost-effective but reliable solar LED streetlights. We have a fully dedicated R&D team for monitoring and incorporating technological advancements as and when required to remain updated on the latest innovative technicalities,” he said adding that in around a year, the brand will be able to offer other lighting products for various other applications.
“Though the market is very much open in the country’s rural area, we are highly ambitious to make our presence felt across the nation by offering quality products at right price. We are planning to establish as many as 3000 Patanjali Urja Kendras (PUKs) – an experience centre cum showroom kind of a setup across the length & breadth of the nation by 2020. In these PUKs, we will put forth all our lighting & solar products on demonstration for the stakeholders to learn about our products as well as technology with touch & feel experience. See, it took the brand around a decade in creating a legacy of trust amongst its admirer, which we need to carry forward the same way,” he averred.
In the end, explaining on what synergy did the company finds with its existing business, Garg opined, “Just like the group identified the opportunity to compete with established multinational packaged consumer goods companies, it sees an opening for itself in solar equipment manufacturing.” Interestingly it’s an area where the government is offering a 30% capital subsidy as part of a new solar manufacturing policy.
Elecssol – Ready to Incorporate the Change
While on the lookout, we met Elecssol – a pretty young brand with more than a decade of experience in trading in the electrical market, by associating with some of the leading brands in India. The manufacturer, Devang Solaar was extremely busy catering to the needs of lighting industry by offering solutions as an OEM to many industry leaders. The company ventured into manufacturing in the Solar lighting sector in the year 2011 with its own brand – Elecssol with a vision to become a household name in the next 5 years.
“We have been supplying to the country’s various leading lighting brands for years and this is why we can say that we know and have the needed technology. The association with lighting giants gave us an opportunity to learn, understand and nurture the technology. This is because their rigorous and multi-fold quality checks have made us confident on our process. However, we do take the 3rd party certifications if required by the clients. We believe quality is the most prominent characteristic of any product we market, followed by design, manufacturing process, and of course, the architecture,” said Sneha Mittal of Devang Solaar. The quality assurance we provide and the after sales service thereafter has made us come a long way since when we started.
The company recognised the opportunity following the government’s thrust on a lighting system which is self-sustainable. According to Mittal, the company started manufacturing and supplying the all-in-one integrated solar LED streetlight system three years back. “We have already installed 20,000 streetlights in various parts of the country including Orissa, Assam and some parts of Bengal. Apart from the all-in-one, we do have integrated systems wherein we have the battery and luminary attached, while the solar PV panel is separate. There are different types of the lights available in this segment, and we are doing all. For all-in-one, Orissa has been the biggest taker of the same for us,” she informed.
On combating competitions, especially with the lighting giants, she opined, “Earlier, there were lesser players in the market, especially in the all-in-one category, which is an integrated light with the inbuilt battery and the panel system. We also have hybrid version of this – with AC-DC both. Once the DC system is not working for some reasons, it automatically transpose to the normal AC system. We do have one which is Bluetooth enabled. We know that everyday newer players are coming in with different concepts but quality is what matters the most, which is our prime thrust area. We are also making drivers in-house. We are sourcing the PV panels and batteries from quality Indian manufacturers.”
Elaborating on quality front, she added, “All our solar products are designed as per the guidelines issued by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India and come up with sufficient warranty and quality assurance. To maintain the quality of our products we do have agreements with world-class raw material suppliers hailing from Belgium, Taiwan, Japan & America. Further, we are an approved channel partner of MNRE, which itself is a proof of proven quality.”
When it comes to warranty & USP, Sneha informed that the battery cycle is dependent on the product selection of Lithium Ion (one year) or Lithium Ferro Phosphate (three years). The panel comes with 25 years warranty. “In all, we are offering one-year warranty on full system. But like I said system is very robust and run for more than 5 years without any major maintenance required. For anything else, we are here to cater to. As far as USP is concerned, we are going with the change and we can incorporate the newest technology as soon as it enters the market because we have a fully-equipped facility with the needed infrastructure. We are making everything in-house. We can make highly customised products.”
To manufacture, these lighting systems, the company has its facility in Sahibabad Industrial Area in UP. “For now, we are manufacturing around five thousands lights in a month. And to market all these, we have a well-established distribution network of over 500 dealers and distributors backed by one of the country’s largest sales networks and experienced team of engineers for after sales. Apart from that, we do have offices in major states including Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh followed by representatives in the North East, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu,” she said adding that the company does have a pertinent presence at the international front. “We are also supplying to overseas destinations including Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, etc. We have supplied over 6000 streetlights to these places and look forward to have expanded base thereon.”
A major advantage of solar PV-based LED lighting technology is its ability to be later integrated into smart grid configurations in the electricity distribution sector because of its solid state technology which can be digitally controlled for illumination level, on/off operations, etc. The street lighting load when using LED systems would be of much lower electric rating that can also be controlled with ease. It is an ideal solution for a demand side management for minimisation of the grid evening peak created because of lighting loads. Dimming, without drop in energy efficiency is a distinct feature of LED lighting.
LEDs using SPV has the added advantage of bringing down the capital cost of the SPV system as the power requirement of the LEDs are far lower than that of conventional lighting systems. Hence, the SPV based LED lamps are emerging as the front runners for energy saving, grid-independent street-lighting systems.