Rooftop Solar For Textile Industry

Solar proves its mettle in India’s textile industry

Having permeated into various sectors in the country—-medical, wildlife and education to name a few, solar energy has woven itself into the threads of the textile industry as well. In just a few years, it has proven to be cost-effective, useful and energy efficient.

This development appears to have been noted by the government since policies to encourage the use of solar were announced two years ago. In March 2017, Minister of State for textiles, Ajay Tamta, in a written reply to a Lok Sabha question, announced—“The Union government at the Centre has initiated a solar energy program for decentralized power loom units in India. It intends to support the power loom sector and includes financial aid, capital subsidies for the installation of solar to address power shortage issues faced by the decentralized power loom units.”

Furthermore, in order to promote the concept of the solar charkha, a Solar Charkha Mission of the Ministry of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), was launched by President Ram Nath Kovind on June 27, 2018 in New Delhi.  It aims to cover 50 clusters and every cluster employs around 400 to 2,000 artisans.

Case of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu

Apart from the Centre, state governments are also taking initiatives to further the use of solar in the textile industry.

For example, last year, in February, the state government of Maharashtra announced a textile policy, applicable from 2018 up to 2023. It focuses on the utilization of renewable sources of energy to cut down costs and has provided consumers with energy subsidies—the intent is to make the state’s textile industry more profitable.

Clean energy consultancy Mercom reported that some of the key highlights of the policy include removal of the upper limit of 1 MW for net-metered projects. This is being hailed as a welcome move for the growth of the rooftop solar sector in the state. The policy, it is believed, will help in the development of small-scale renewable energy projects in Maharashtra.

The government also announced that special incentives would be given to textile projects implementing environment-friendly solar and wind energy projects. If spinning mills, power looms and textile projects are willing to set up green energy projects, the state government, in collaboration with Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (MEDA), would formulate a program for providing appropriate subsidy to reduce the overall power subsidy, Mercom reported.

Down South, spinning mills in the textile belt of Coimbatore and Tirupur began hunting for investors to fund small solar farms on the rooftops of their factories, the Economic Times reported on May 25, 2016.

Investor interest in funding small, rooftop units in the south also picked up. The other attraction for rooftop farms is that power can be consumed directly, with minimal wheeling or transmission charges for the energy as opposed to drawing power from distant solar farms or state-provided grid power.

In Tamil Nadu, a large portion of small and medium mills have opted for wind farms and some have gone in for solar farms developed by independent power producers. In fact, Gamesa, a wind power developer, had even begun selling solar projects to the state textile industry to tap into the demand-supply gap in renewable power, according to ET.

Heating systems

As per a draft by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), solar water heating is a well-established technology. It can be used in industries for boiler feed applications in raising the temperature of water from 25 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius, thereby saving a substantial amount of fuel oil used in boilers. A 10,000 litres per day capacity system may cost between Rs 15 to Rs 18 lakh and can save around 14,000 litres of fuel oil per year for about 20 years, the life of the system.

The largest system installed is 1,20,000 litres (per day capacity) at M/s Godavari Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd., Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. It was set up in 1997 through a soft loan from IREDA in 1997 and recovered the cost in four years.

Yet another system was installed at a textile factory in Gurgaon. With a capacity of 50,000 litres per day, it has been working since October 2007 and recovered the cost in just two years.

A solar air heating system with 90 sq. m. collector area was installed at M/s Raghav Woollen Mills, Ludhiana, Punjab for drying of garments in their tumbler dryers. It replaced the cool ambient air of about 30°C with solar pre-heated air of 55°C– 65°C—-further raised by diesel fired hot air generator to 100 °C – 110 °C for drying garments. As a result, they have been saving 25% of their fuel consumption amounting to around 1.50 lacs per annum. The payback period has been reported to be two years and the system is expected to last more than 15 years.

Additionally, a roof integrated solar air heating system with 700 square metre of collector area was installed in a leading ternary at Ranipet, Tamil Nadu for drying leather. The factory uses two imported dryers wherein moving leather is dried by hot air—-the temperature is around 70 °C produced by heat exchange from steam coils. Hot air produced from solar collectors have reduced the usage of steam in heat exchanger during the day. The system was able to save around 360 tonnes of firewood used in the boiler, apart from replacing a 1.2 tonne capacity steam boiler.

“A system comprising of 15 dishes, each of 16 square metre area was installed at Gajaraj Cleaners industry, Ahmed Nagar in Maharashtra for washing and cleaning clothes. The system has been hooked up with their existing boiler and generates about 105 kg of steam per hour at 5 kg pressure. It reportedly saves around 10,000 litres of furnace oil per year and has paid back the cost in less than 4 years after availing subsidy from MNRE and depreciation benefits”, the MNRE draft states.

Road ahead

According to a report by Technopak Advisors, the textile industry in India accounts for about 24% of the world’s spindle capacity and 8% of the global rotor capacity. It is estimated that by 2021, the potential size of the Indian textiles and apparel industry will reach US$ 223 billion by 2021.

An abundance of raw materials such as cotton, wool, silk and jute as well as skilled workforce have made India not just a sourcing hub, but also one of the world’s largest producers of textiles and garments. The textile sector contributes around 14% to industrial production, 4% to India’s GDP and constitutes 13% of the country’s export earnings.

For an industry so vast and one with high energy consumption, switching to solar makes perfect sense, voice experts.

Dr Ashvini Kumar, Senior Director – Renewable Energy, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), told The Indian Textile Journal in May this year that application of solar energy in the textile industry has the potential to save about Rs 770 crore per annum. “A total saving worth Rs 13,940 per annum has been identified in the sector according to Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL),” he added.

Incidentally, TERI has also installed solar panels above looms to produce Banarasi sarees. These panels, he explained, are helping the units access a cleaner form of energy to run their machines and deal with power cuts. “Earlier, the looms had to use diesel-powered generator to tide over power cuts, which entails the high cost of diesel and harmful emissions from diesel. However, now, the looms are using a hybrid solar PV system backed by cleaner, smaller and more powerful lithium batteries to store energy for use when the sun is not shining. These systems are being installed by TERI, under a corporate social responsibility project, supported by Indus Towers under LaBL. A total of 100 such systems have been installed and they support 400 power looms in Lohta, Kotwa and Jalalipura areas in Uttar Pradesh. After installation of solar power systems, not only have earnings seen an increase of 20%, but the productivity has also gone up as hours are not lost to power cuts,” he told the journal.

Most textile factories have vast unshaded roof area and huge tracts of unused land. Setting up solar plants in these unused areas is a relatively easy task when it comes to energy savings and reducing carbon footprint, Dr Kumar was quoted as saying.

Going by the occurrences in the past few years, solar is surely going to be an integral part of one of the country’s biggest industries. The journey has begun and will soon pave the way for sustainable growth.


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