January 25, 2016

A model for energy providers in India – the DLR test and qualification laboratory for solar power plants

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is supporting the Indian power provider NTPC in its project to establish a research centre to test and develop solar power plants and their components. DLR researchers are supplying systems, measurement equipment and expertise, and are helping to select suitable power plant locations. The recently launched project will run for three years and is supported by the Kreditanstalt Development Bank (KfW) with funds provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

This new centre will allow India’s national energy provider NTPC to build on the expertise in its own research department. The DLR test and qualification centre in Cologne, QUARZ , is the role model for the Indian research facility. Industrial providers commission QUARZ to test components for solar power plants, including parabolic mirrors and absorber tubes. DLR developed the internationally recognised measurement procedures used in the facility, and also defined the quality standards. “Our experience puts us in a perfect position to assist our Indian partner in establishing its own assessment expertise. Test and quality standards enable faster development of components used in solar power plants, which means the power plants themselves will ultimately be able to deliver more electricity,” says Björn Schiricke from theGo to website.

Huge demand for energy

India’s demand for energy and electricity is growing rapidly, in line with its expanding economy and population. Two thirds of the electricity used in India is derived from fossil energy sources, making the energy sector a major burden for the environment and the climate. The Indian government has launched an ambitious solar plan to deliver greater energy reliability and to foster carbon-neutral growth. The plan calls for the installation of 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022. “By building this research centre for solar power plants, DLR is contributing to the transfer of knowledge and expertise from Germany to an important partner country in our development cooperation. As well as increasing local expertise, the laboratory will also promote the domestic market for solar power. This will help India to cover its growing demand for energy while simultaneously curbing the rise in carbon dioxide emissions in the long term,” says Oliver Jünger, a Senior Project Manager at KfW.

Measurement equipment and training

DLR will deliver test facilities designed for its proprietary measurement procedures over the course of the project. They include systems to measure mirror form and reflectance, and to perform photogrammetry and collector qualification. The project will also include DLR-developed software that enables optimisation of power plant output. In India, seminars will be held to train local solar researchers in the use of these measurement procedures. The hope is that this technical equipment, software and knowledge transfer will form the basis for future research cooperation.

Ideal location for solar power plants

In addition, DLR will support NTPC by providing an analysis tool to examine all of India and identify the best locations for solar power plants. “Although India is situated geographically in the Earth’s equatorial Sun belt, the country nevertheless presents extremely heterogeneous and complex irradiation potential. Among other factors, the Asian Brown Cloud – a large, man-made layer of smog – prevents large amounts of the Sun’s radiation from reaching the Earth at times,” explains Christoph Schillings, in charge of systems analysis and technology assessment at the DLR-Institut für Technische Thermodynamik, describing the situation in India. Besides solar radiation, other factors that influence the search for suitable regions include land use, nature reserves, connections to the power grid and proximity to urban conurbations.

Commitment to India

KfW finances and supports projects in developing and emerging countries – from their design to implementation and monitoring – on behalf of the German Federal Government. The goal of KfW is to help its partner countries fight poverty, maintain peace, protect both the environment and the climate and to shape globalisation in a proper way.

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit; BMUB) launched the ‘International Climate Initiative’ (Internationale Klimaschutzinitiative; IKI) to provide targeted support to climate and biodiversity projects in developing and emerging countries and in transitional countries.

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Dorothee Bürkle

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Media Relations, Energy and Transport Research

Dr.-Ing. Björn Schiricke

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Solar Research
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne