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Solution to the Variable Nature of Renewable Energy

Research Story of Shebaz Memon

The issue of unreliable power, especially in the areas of under-developed countryside, is acute. In addition to that, current power generation is heavily dominated by fossil fuels. This results in a desperate need to shift from polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy. There is a need to make the electric power system environment-friendly, sustainable, and reliable.

Solar panels produce electricity when the sun shines, and wind turbines generate electricity only when the wind blows. This causes a severe problem with the electric grid’s stability. Fossil fuel-based (for example, coal-based thermal) power plants cannot be technologically feasible and economically viable for short periods of non-availability of renewable energy.

Solar and wind energy are complementary in nature. The combination of two or more renewable sources with an energy storage facility is known as Hybrid Renewable Energy System (HRES). Dr Shebaz A Memon, Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Institute of Technology, worked on his doctoral research on the optimisation of HRES under the mentorship of Dr R N Patel, Director of the School of Engineering at the Institute of Technology, Nirma University. The research focuses on the optimal configuration of the sizing of individual systems such as solar, wind, bio, hydro and battery storage in the HRES. The electricity demand, solar radiation and wind speed are continuously varying parameters throughout the year. In his research, he used different classical and modern optimisation methods, with an objective to fulfil the demand for electricity at a minimum cost per unit of electric energy (i.e., ₹/kWh). Various potential distant areas with high renewable potential in the western Indian region have been studied for the installation of HRES.

The societal impact of HRES in the studied area is also evaluated, using Human Development Index (HDI). The improvement of HDI in the area due to surplus energy produced by the HRES is calculated, using an empirical equation. This excess energy can be used for useful economic activities instead of wasting through dump load. Nowadays, job creation has become the foremost concern to the general population and thereby for policymakers, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic-driven economic downturn. Hence, the job creation opportunities generated by the HRES installation are also considered as one of the objectives for the optimisation process in his published research papers in detail. The HRES also results in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by thousands of tonnes in comparison to conventional systems. This is calculated using life cycle assessment analysis of components of HRES and embodied carbon in them.

It is hoped that properly optimised and located HRES can pave the way for sustainable and clean electric grids for us and our future generations. This transition to a green world need not be done by going back to pre-industrial times without electricity.