Rooftop solar panels catch fancy of petrol stations

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Petrol stations in Punjab and Chandigarh are harnessing solar energy by installing rooftop solar panels to run their daily operations. According to data provided by oil companies, around 30% of the fuel stations in the state and Union Territory of Chandigarh have installed rooftop solar panels. The installation of solar panels not only reduces the operational cost but also increases efficiency.

Punjab has the maximum number of retail outlets at 3,550 while Chandigarh has 42 outlets. Chandigarh boasts of the highest sales in the region at 800 kilolitres (petrol and diesel) per pump a month. Compared to Chandigarh, the average monthly sale of petrol and diesel is 126 kilolitres per pump in Punjab, the lowest in the region.

For heavy sale volume outlets like in Chandigarh, the average capacity required for the solar plant is 20 KW. For stations located in the cities of Punjab, the ideal requirement is around 10 KW while for those located in rural areas the requirement is 5 KW.

“The economics of the entire project, however, has huge incentives. Petrol stations are commercial entities and attract one of the highest electricity tariffs among all consumer segments which vary between Rs 9 and Rs 10 per unit. So, considering the consumption the return on capital invested is around three years and a panel has a life of 25 years,” said Rahul Sacher, partner, Dashmesh Solar Energy (Faridkot).

According to data provided by three public sector oil marketing companies, namely Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), around 1,000 petrol stations in Punjab and Chandigarh have installed solar panels. IOC has the maximum number of outlets with rooftop solar panels at 873 out of 1,777 outlets in Punjab and Chandigarh. BPCL has around 80 retail outlets with solar panels out of 560 fuel stations.

HPCL has around 37 stations with solar panels out of 309 fuel stations in seven districts of the state, including in Chandigarh. If we include other districts, the number will be much more, but for other districts data could not be ascertained. It has around 800 stations in Punjab and Chandigarh.

“For the installation of solar panels, oil marketing companies such as IOC and HPCL offer subsidies,” Rahul said.

Most petrol stations suffer major loss due to irregular power supply which results in loss of fuel, time and money. Also, the running and maintenance cost of generators has gone up sharply due to increase in the price of conventional fuel.

According to dealers, petrol stations located in the rural areas used to lose almost 10% of their sales due to frequent power cuts but now they are utilising power generated from the solar panels during power interruptions. In the rural areas, a petrol pump needs 5KW of power for completing their daily operational activities, which comes to over 1,800 KW a year.

Source: The Tribune