BY Jayashree Mendes
If you are riding along the country’s highways, crossing states and passing villages you are bound to see shops and houses dotted with a ubiquitous diesel generator that will roar to life once every few hours. Not only do they light up the particular shop or house, but neighbouring shops and houses as well. Frequent power cuts have become a way of life for people living in the country. Most have resigned to their fate and prefer to arm themselves with back-up power.
Diesel generators will continue to dot India’s landscape for a long time to come. Enough has been spoken and written about India’s inability to deliver 24×7 power to its citizens and hence these equipment manufacturers will continue to do brisk business.
In the commercial space, large format generators have become increasingly popular in the mining segment. Going by figures, diesel generators account for approximately 72% of the energy used to run various facets of the mining industry. The large drills and shovels, as well as excavating machinery, all run on diesel generators. Most often than not, these generators are in the form of huge land roving trucks that help to extract the minerals and also transport them. In most cases, these gigantic generators can haul over 300 tonnes of material at one time. Diesel has a lower volatility rate, making it a safer option for use in the mining industry. The large mining projects are usually in the wilderness (deserts, mountains, etc) where the power grid is absent. Mining projects in these far-flung locations depend on onsite power generators.
Rajesh Bagga, director, Kohler Power India, says, “We have recently launched the KD Series, large diesel industrial generators, which are designed to deliver improved durability and reliability. These generators are powered by a new line of G-Drive Kohler engines that are best-in-class and meet global emission regulations. The KD Series of generators will also cater to industries including water treatment, oil and gas, telecommunications and mining.”
“In the commercial establishments, diesel generators are used as a power back up with optional feature of Automatic Main Failure (AMF) panel. The AMF panels helps in automatic changeover from mains to stand-by generator at the time of power failure while advanced telematics helps in remote monitoring and centralised controlling. However, at mining and constructions sites, trolley mounted generators are used to ensure the frequent mobility,” says Jasmeet Singh, head, corporate communications & external relations, JCB India Limited.
Adding to this, P Palaniappan, sr. VP & business head, Mahindra Powerol, say, “Usually for such applications, heavy duty & rugged gensets are feasible. In applications like mining and construction sites, gensets with heavy duty filters and higher block loading capacities are preferable to take on the dusty conditions and abrupt heavy load conditions. In malls and hospitals, gensets having Auto Mains Failure (AMF) facility are used along with one backup genset to take care of the redundancy factor and criticality of the backup power.”
When miners and engineers are working below the surface of earth, air quality monitoring equipment powered by onsite power generators plays a critical role in the health and safety of these people. Interesting, isn’t it?
A world turned upside down
In terms of homes, residential housing societies in India can now happily ditch diesel generators (DGs) and adopt rooftop solar for power backup. A new policy paper titled Solar Rooftop: Replacing Diesel Generators in Residential Societies by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) analysed five housing societies in India and found that it is not just easy to replace polluting diesel generators with the solar power systems, but is a big cost saver as well. According to the study, the cost of power generation from solar range from Rs 6 to Rs 9 per unit, which is almost half the cost of power from DGs, which works out to be Rs 17 per unit. This is a conservative estimate where only diesel and basic maintenance costs of DGs are considered. If the capital cost of a DG (which is often included in the cost of building) is included, the cost of its power turns out to be between Rs 27 to Rs 33 per unit, which is almost three times more expensive than solar power.
P Palaniappan of Mahindra Powerol says, “The major challenge in using solar generators is storage of the energy. With advancements in battery technology, more energy can now be stored in lesser area. This will definitely encourage usage of solar generators in larger places in near future.”
While solar energy does offer a number of advantages, there are significant limitations to its widespread use in residential homes and other business areas. Abhinav Gupta, South East Asia regional marketing manager, Perkins, says, “Some of the advantages are: 1) Lack of consistency and reliability. Solar systems rely on the steady absorption of sunlight which is not always guaranteed, and there are places where availability is limited. The technology also depends upon the battery and power storage which are still maturing. 2) To power an entire building, a large solar array is required. With space coming at a premium, it’s always a challenge. 3) Like any other equipment, solar panels are prone to deterioration over time. 4) The costs are quite high, and 5) There are challenges to incorporate the setups without compromising on the aesthetics.
He adds that a diesel powered generator provides a dependable and cost-effective solution to a wide range of electricity generation needs.
To serve customers in the Indian market, manufacturers of generators have developed world-class products that meet all the regulatory requirements in the region. Their path to market, manufacturing strategy and business processes are all designed to keep customers as the primary focus and to serve them in the most efficient way.
“Customers have many demands for their diesel generator sets, but a lifetime of low cost is an important consideration for any customer. India is one of the most competitive dollar per kVA markets in the world, but customers in India are well informed and appreciate the value that comes with the Perkins package,” says Gupta.
Currently, the major challenge is to curb the existing operational sets of pre CPCB I era which is a major source of pollution. “The regulatory authorities are working towards implementing stringent laws and have taken the right steps to put a check on these machines. These laws will not only curb pollution, but will also give a boost to environment-friendly generators which are complying with the current stage of emissions norms,” says Singh of JCB.
Mahindra Powerol has on offer a unique service package for five years called Super Shield for long-term benefits for customers.
Super Shield is a 5-year all-inclusive coverage plan, which includes zero repair charges, zero service charges and zero spare replacement costs, for five whole years.
While Kohler Power follows one global quality and performance standard to give an experience to customers. “Apart from this, we have developed our products to suit the India market in terms of features such as compact canopy (due to space constraints), heavy duty air filters (due to extreme environmental conditions), silencer, enhanced service intervals, and AMF (automatic mains failure),” says Bagga.
The government of India revised emission regulations on diesel generators in 2014 by imposing stringent CPCB-II norms. These regulatory norms will only get more rigorous in the coming years on account of global warming and increased environmental awareness.