Is Climate Change Real? The regular answer what we hear is a big “Yes” [but alternatively there is another answer which is “No”- see the alternative view at the end of this article]. The statistical data confirms that the average surface air temperature of Earth has increased by about 1°C (1.8°F) since 1900, and over half of this increase occurred since the mid-1970s. A wide range of other observations (such as reduced Arctic sea ice extent and increased ocean heat content) as well as the indications from the natural world, such as poleward shifts of temperature-sensitive species of fish, mammals, insects, etc., when combined provide incontrovertible evidence of planetary-scale warming.
The clearest evidence for surface warming comes from widespread temperature records that, in some places, extend back to the late 19th century. Today, temperatures are being monitored at many thousands of locations across the globe, over both the land and ocean surface. Indirect estimates of temperature change from tree rings and ice cores also help in placing recent temperature changes in the context of the past. In terms of the average surface temperature of the Earth, these indirect estimates show that 1989 to 2019 was very likely the warmest 30-year period in more than 800 years while the most recent decade, 2010-2019, is the warmest decade in the instrumental record so far (since 1850).
A wide range of other observations provides a more comprehensive picture of warming throughout the climate system. For example, the lower atmosphere and the upper layers of the ocean have also warmed, snow and ice cover are decreasing in the Northern Hemisphere, the Greenland ice sheet is shrinking, and the sea level is rising. These measurements are made with a variety of land, ocean, and space-based monitoring systems, which give added confidence in the reality of global-scale warming of Earth’s climate.
Scientists have been knowing this fact since 1800 that CO2 is one of the main greenhouse gases and maintains the Earth’s energy balance. While the measurement of this CO2 in the atmosphere and air trapped in ice confirmed that atmospheric CO2 had increased by more than 40% from 1800 to 2019, the measurements of different forms of carbon reveal that this increase happened mainly due to human activities. Humans also artificially created other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide & refrigeration gases for their comfort. Various studies have confirmed that the natural causes alone cannot explain these recorded changes in the climate. These natural causes include variations in the Sun’s output and Earth’s orbit around the Sun, volcanic eruptions, and internal fluctuations in the climate system (such as El Niño and La Niña).
Human activities have significantly disturbed nature’s carbon cycle as more & more fossil fuel is being extracted and is being burned to meet the ever-increasing hunger for energy for human industrialization & comfort. Such large-scale burning of fossil fuel is releasing a large quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere that cannot be recycled by nature. The data confirm that the CO2 level in 2019 was more than 40% higher than it was in the 19th century. CO2 levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years – most of this CO2 increase has taken place since 1970, about the time when global energy consumption accelerated.
Since the Sun provides the primary source of energy, driving the Earth’s climate system, yet its 11 years cycle of hot spots during which its energy output varies by roughly 0.1%, affecting ozone concentrations, temperatures, and winds in the stratosphere has played very little role in the climate changes. In fact, direct satellite measurements since the late 1970s clearly show no net increase in the Sun’s energy output, but at the same time average global surface temperature has been increasing continuously. Available evidences also do not indicate any long-term changes in the Sun’s output over the past century, a period when human induced increase in CO2 concentrations have been the dominant influence on the long-term global surface temperature increase. Further evidence that current warming is not a result of solar changes can be found in the temperature trends at different altitudes in the atmosphere.
Solar Roofs & Climate Change
The exponentially increasing global hunger of energy have been causing massive burning of fossil fuel at a much higher rate than what nature can replenish by its control mechanism leading to large accumulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere in the past few decades converting the previously thought threat of climate change, a reality.
While fighting the climate change may seem like an overwhelming task, yet it can be fought both individually and collectively. A fight in which solar energy plays a huge role in creating a cleaner and safer environment. Solar energy is a renewable energy that is available in all regions of planet and more so in India. By going solar, even individuals can contribute on their parts in fighting the climate change. In other words, each energy choice people make certainly plays an important role in the impact of climate change and just by changing everyday behaviour people can contribute to the larger cause in reducing a bit of global warming.
A building roof with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system mounted on top of it is known as Solar Roof and is a mini power plant, converting solar energy directly into electricity either to meet the building’s power requirements or feed into the grid. Although anyone can install a solar rooftop system, the size of the installation varies significantly depending on availability of space, amount of electricity consumed by the building, and the ability or willingness of the owner to invest the capital required. These solar roofs form an important and critical part of Government of India’s 100 GW target by 2022 out of which 40 GW is to be achieved through Rooftop Solar (RTS) power plants as per the clean climate commitments. Realizing the immense potential of RTS Power Plants, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), GoI, had launched Grid Connected Rooftop and Small Solar Power Plant Programme with increased budget of Rs. 5,000 Crore (Rs. 50 billion) for RTS Power Plant projects.
However, the recent data of GoI indicate that India is lagging much behind from the aggressive target of 40 GW by the end of 2021~22 and has attained only 24% of the target as on 31.10.2021. The analysis indicated that there were many initial challenges including public’s perception about high initial cost of installing RTS Power Plants. Whereas the financial assistance is one of the factors that has provided the momentum to RTS Power plants. Also, to keep the solar panels efficient a lot of water is required and in contrast areas with high solar energy density like Rajasthan, Gujarat. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. Orissa, Western Uttar Pradesh have scarcity of water. These issues as well other local issues need to be resolved on a broader & larger scale to make RTS Power Plants more popular.
The Program of MNRE looks into these issues and provides the support for them. It also clearly defines the following objectives for the Program for pushing the RTS Power Plants:
- Promote the grid-connected RTS Power Plants amongst the residential, community, institutional, industrial & commercial establishments.
- Mitigate the dependence on fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
- Create enabling environment for investment in the solar energy sector by private sectors, state government & the individual.
- Create enabling environment for the supply of solar power from RTS Power plants to the grid.
- Encourage innovation in addressing market needs and promoting sustainable business models and ensure employment opportunities.
- Provide support to change partners and potential beneficiaries within the framework of boundary conditions and in a flexible demand-driven mode.
- Create a paradigm shift needed to the commoditization of grid-connected RTS Power Plants.
- Encourage replacement of diesel/ fossil fuel, wherever possible.
With large areas of the region endowed with bountiful solar radiation, many countries in the region have the ideal conditions for utilizing solar energy. The RTS Power Plants generate power during the day while feeding surplus power back into the power grid. Residences can be sufficiently supplied with small systems of usually up to 20 kilowatts (kW), while larger public, commercial, and industrial buildings may have systems with a capacity as large as 1 MW. Although much smaller in capacity than regular power plants, rooftop solar systems have many benefits in helping us change how we produce energy and make our world a better place to live.
A statement of the state-wise overall solar power generation capacities (including solar farm, RTS Power Plants etc.) has been given below. It shows that while many States have leapfrogged in overall solar power generation, many of the States need to catch up even the national average. However, we cannot ignore the physical location of some if these states, which may not have advantages of land availably as well as fall of solar radiation. Still, the states that are lagging need to come up with innovative ideas – to generate more solar power using RTS power Plants for meeting the overall target of the country for 2022.
Solar Energy to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and CO2 Emissions
Solar powered electricity is considered to be one of the most promising technologies to help slow and halt the progress of climate change because they generate ‘renewable’ electricity from sunlight. This electricity for homes and businesses is therefore produced without burning the fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere including carbon dioxide and methane. Solar PV panels are currently a great choice to produce renewable energy thanks to recent improvements the technology, fast-reducing costs and how easy they are to install – taking 2 days for a typical domestic property – and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) expects they could supply 25–49% of global electricity needs by 2050.
A modest-sized solar system can reduce energy usage by approximately 80%, with others approaching 100%. This reduction clearly indicates the significant environmental impact of solar energy. With this type of clean energy production, solar can offset the CO2 emissions and the greenhouse gases to create a cleaner environment. RTS Power Plants installed at homes, commercial or industrial buildings, are the key to generating electricity without worsening the
Benefits of Roof Top Solar (RTS) Power Plants
Some of the tangible & non –tangible benefits associated with RTS Power Plants have been summarized below.
- Peak Load Management (of DISCOMs): The RTS Power Plants play a very important role in helping the distribution companies (DISCOMs) to reduce their peak demand and simultaneously decrease transmission and distribution losses associated with power consumption at the point of generation.
- Revenue Generation: Some states in India are offering Net-metering schemes on RTS Power Plants wherein the consumer has the option to sell the excess energy to the grid and get paid for the same.
- Cost Savings: Being standalone & modular in nature system, which can be installed at the point of consumption with any additional investment for power line & associated system, the RTS Power Plants prove to be highly cost-effective when compared with grid electricity or any other kind of captive generation.
- Rise of ESCO Model: Adopting the ESCO (Energy Service Company) model, allows consumers to avail lower tariffs, compared with grid tariff rates without investing on capital cost. The ESCO model has been successfully implemented in many high & low-rise buildings and at individual houses
- Easy Installation in Remote Areas: In remote areas where power grid is not available, RTS Power Plants serve as the most affordable and reliable source of electricity.
- Better Space Utilization: The RTS Power Plants can be installed on existing roof of any building or industrial sheds, where apart from generating power they also provide secondary protection to the roof.
- Low Maintenance: The RTS Power Plants require very low maintenance (except frequent cleaning of PV panels & replacement of batteries every 3-5 years in the case of off-grid systems).
- Green Source of Energy: With no emission & noise, the RTS Power Plants are environment friendly compared to conventional energy sources.
Over the last two years, there has been a tremendous thrust from the central as well as state governments, in the form of policies, regulations, guidelines and even promotional subsidies at various levels, to promote RTS Power Plants for reducing the region’s reliance on fossil fuel & is a welcome step toward enhancing future energy security and mitigating climate change.
Epilogue & Alternative View on Global Warming
Despite all these hyper worries and threat of Global Warming, which everyone has been hearing for many decades, the world saw a slower rate of warming between 2000~2010, a period which also saw increase in Antarctic sea ice cover.
With this background comes an alternative view, which also has a strong holding but has never been discussed on broader scale. This alterative view looks at planet earth as a well-designed eco system acting as a gyroscope, which self-manages the issue of global warming as if mother nature has built its own control mechanism. This concept relies on three factors associated with earth’s unique design/ characteristics, which are i) its water-ice cycle, ii) its axial rotation and iii) its rotation around the Sun. While it is well known that the Earth with its large water content (which incidentally gets accumulated at equator and acts as major mass of gyroscope storing most of earth’s rotational energy. Whenever the quantity of water in sea increases (due to melting of polar ice), the rotational speed of earth increases causing its orbit to elongate (scientific law) and pushes the earth, farther from sun, leading to less exposure to the heat/ radiation of Sun. Once this happens, the sea receives lesser heat from sun, the sea water starts cooling down & becomes heavier, forms ice and with time travels back to poles to add to the polar ice formation. Once the sea water level/ quantity reduces, and polar ice caps become bigger the rotational speed of the earth reduces (https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-earths-rotation-is-gradually-slowing-down) and earth comes back to its lower radius orbit to get exposed to higher solar heat/ radiation. The cycle repeats over many millennium and maintains the heat balance earth.
Prabhat Khare possesses a BE (Electrical) degree from IIT Roorkee (Gold Medalist). Now, he is the Director of KK Consultants. He is also a BEE Certified Energy Manager and a Lead Assessor for ISO 9K, 14K, 45K & 50K.