SOLAR ENERGY EDUCATION IN INDIA: For Sustainable Skill Development

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Solar energy as an education subject normally involves physical science and engineering, but sometimes depending on the student category, also economics and social science. It is necessary to introduce solar energy concept from the very early stage of education. For primary level, the courses demonstrate the principle of solar energy and conversion of solar energy to electricity through solar cell and heat through solar thermal technologies. In addition, during night time and cloudy days, no energy is available from the sun. Therefore, the concept of energy storage is introduced for electricity and process heat applications. A number of organizations are engaged in developing curriculum/teaching materials for renewable energies especially at ITI levels.

For a student in secondary school, the content of the course is based on the concept of simple, either stand-alone or hybrid energy systems. However, the types and sizes of various components are given, that is, the effects of series and parallel connections of solar cells, modules, batteries, charge controllers, measuring equipment, energy converters, system protection, and various characteristics of electrical appliances are considered. Also, different types and sizes of solar thermal technologies are used for various process heat applications, that is, flat plate collector, evacuated tubular collector, parabolic trough collector, Scheffler, and solar dish. It was found that approximately 60 per cent of the responded institutes are either engaged in developing curriculum for ITI or developing teaching resource materials in the area of solar energy.

University Education

At the university level, the proposed solar energy topics could be included with applied science or engineering courses. Solar energy courses can be a part of the regular undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

This could be done by incorporation of solar energy concepts in routine science and engineering subjects with the help of thermal power; heat and mass transfer; thermodynamics for instance in solar collectors, solar cookers, solar distillation system, solar chimney, solar thermal, and power systems; etc. It has been found through the survey that 45 per cent responded organizations are conducting courses on solar energy at undergraduate/postgraduate level as a part of full-fledged engineering course.

It appears through the survey that only 60 out of 1,346 technical institutions in India offer postgraduate courses in Energy Management with electives on Renewable Energy (Solar Energy). And, only one engineering college named AMITY University have taken the special branch on engineering course of solar energy.

The Role of National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE)

It has been found that only 20 per cent of organizations are running short training courses and conducting workshops on solar energy. The National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) is one of the institutions that provide scientific, technical, and practical training for people working in the area of solar energy and conducting training programmes for government officials of different departments in order to educate them about various aspects of solar energy. The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) also conducts training programmes on renewable energy and solar energy. Some of the IITs and NITs are also conducting training programmes related to solar energy and its applications. Recently, rapid development of solar energy applications, including electrical power generation, hot water production, building heating and cooling, and industrial process heat have created the need for training and education of the workforce and future researchers in skill development programme. This proposal aims to develop the needed educational material incorporating the latest advances and field deployed commercial systems, providing field experience for students. The courses were initially developed by a group of faculty members at NISE and offered at various institutions.

Suryamitra training programme

Objectives of the programme

  • Train students for fundamental understanding of solar energy and its application
  • Provide hands-on experience on design and development and research in solar-based energy conversion systems at the facilities of various institutions
  • Creation of manpower specialized in the applications of solar energy.

These focussed trainings will assist in building capacity of solar energy professionals in India to achieve solar deployment targets for 2022.

Public Awareness Programme

Lack of public awareness about solar energy is a significant obstacle that limits the utilization of this important and freely available energy source. There are some methods that could be used to disseminate information amongst large number of people in shortest time, such as newspaper, television, radio, exhibition, etc. Seminar, workshops, and conferences in universities on the subject of solar energy are a good tool for gathering interested people. These discussions will provide the environment to effectively present seminars about solar energy and to discuss and exchange ideas among the specialization. It is recommended to include solar energy subjects in the current curriculum at every level of education. Degree courses on solar energy are required to be arranged for creation of appropriate technical manpower in the field of solar for sustainable development. In addition, a well-organized solar energy information network is required to be established. Organizing relevant workshops and seminars could also play a significant role in increasing the public awareness about utilizing solar energy.

Progress of Solar Energy Skill Development in India

This area could require more concentration especially in the trade of electricians, plumbers, installation of solar water heating systems, operation of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic plant, etc., so that trained tradesmen can easily install, operate, maintain, and look after solar equipment. ‘Skilling India’ is the dream project of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India for creating job opportunities for the unemployed youth in the various service and manufacturing sectors throughout the country. It is a flagship programme of the PMO targeting to create 500 million skilled manpower by 2020.

The National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) has been assigned with the responsibility to execute various skill development programmes throughout the country in the field of solar energy technology. NISE has innovative, result-oriented skill development division to cater to the need of ‘Make in India’ programme. At present, various programmes are being conducted at NISE and at its partner institutes across India.

Skill Development Activities at NISE

NISE is conducting solar energy training for the past two decades for national and international participants. NISE regularly invites people from solar and renewable energy industry and interacts with them to identify the skill gaps in the new recruits of the renewable energy industry. A dedicated training programme on renewable energy technologies for the senior defence, BSF officers, and chartered engineers are also regularly being conducted 2–3 times in a year. NISE has excellent laboratory facilities (viz., RE Skill Development Training Laboratory, Solar PV Electronics Skill Development Laboratory, PVSyst/PVSOL laboratory) to offer training to trainers and to the participants of training courses in NISE campus. About 30 skill development programmes were conducted at NISE campus during 2015–16. NISE proposes to conduct 50 training programmes in FY 2016–17 that includes in-house training programmes at NISE as well as programmes at other locations spread all over India.

SETNET Team with 35 SETNET Partners at NISE

Suryamitra Programme

NISE is organizing ‘Suryamitra’ skill development programme, in collaboration with State Nodal Agencies, at various locations across the country. The duration of this skill development programme is 90 days. It is a residential programme and it is free of any cost, which includes boarding and lodging. Suryamitra Skill Development Programmes are sponsored by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India. More than 100 academics and R&D institutions/ organizations are partnering with NISE to train 50,000 Suryamitras (i.e., 50,000 ITI/diploma holders) in the three years (FY 2015–16 to FY 2017–18). NISE is also offering Suryamitra course from its campus. The Government of India is contemplating increasing the number of trained Suryamitras to 100,000 by 2019–20. More than 350 academicians and R&D institutions/ organizations are expected to participate in this programme to achieve the target of 100,000 Suryamitras. NISE is the National Coordinator for administering the programme.

Solar Energy Training Network (SETNET)

NISE has established the Solar Energy Training Network (SETNET) institutions across India to build skills and capacities to ensure the availability of qualified solar energy professionals to meet the national solar deployment targets. The objective of SETNET is to ensure availability of skilled manpower to meet the solar deployment target for 2022. Through a competitive process, NISE has identified 35 SETNET partners across the country that are empanelled by NISE to provide the skill development courses. Several programmes are being launched across India.

Shri Umakant Sahoo, Research Scientist (Solar Thermal), National Institute of Solar Energy, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India.