IIT, Madras wins the 2017 IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award for its Solar-DC technology

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Chennai: The IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award is presented to the company/institution voted by IEEE Spectrum editors as having developed the technology having the greatest potential to provide the most overall benefit to humankind. In 2017, the editors have chosen to give this award to the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras for the development of solar DC microgrid technology.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association, and produces over 30% of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields. IEEE Spectrum is its flagship publication. For more on IEEE, see Annexure 1.

Solar DC Inverterless system
With the maturing of electronic technology, electrically powered home and office appliances are becoming far more energy efficient, by using only direct current (DC). To power them using existing AC power lines, each such device needs an AC-to-DC converter which adds to the losses, cost and unreliability. Center for Decentralized Power Systems (CDPS) at IIT Madras took the bold step of conversion of in-home power distribution from 230V AC to 48V DC, so as to directly power DC appliances and directly tap roof-top solar power. It resulted into most energy-efficient solution for homes and offices.

India is fortunate to be blessed with good solar availability, making the sun a promising renewable energy resource. Roof-top solar photovoltaics, when directly used to power a DC line, offers the lowest-cost decentralized source of electricity to supplement power from the grid. With the addition of modestly sized batteries, the system promises energy delivery even during load shedding and long power-outages.

Solar-DC is also a viable and cost-effective solution for powering homes in remote off-grid areas, due to its reliability, affordability and its operation without dependency on grid.

The Solar-DC Inverterless system, consisting of DC solar generation, the DC power-line, DC appliances and battery, is a landmark innovation with the potential to be rapidly deployed in every home and office in India as well as in homes across the world. It will transform the lives of ordinary citizens by providing them reliable power supply, energy-efficient appliances and lower cost of electricity all at the same time.

Currently, the system has already been deployed in 4000 off-grid homes in the districts of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, and is being deployed in 7200 homes in several districts of Assam. It has also been deployed in Belagavadi in Karnataka, Alandur (Trichy) in Tamil Nadu and some villages in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, besides being deployed in several buildings on the IIT campus. To know more about some of these deployments, visit www.solardc.in.

Dr. Pawan Goenka, Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Madras and Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., said “I am delighted that IIT Madras has been selected for this prestigious award by IEEE. It is an honor to be recognized globally for the pioneering work being done by the Centre for Decentralized Power Systems at IIT Madras. Besides being world-class research and teaching institutions, we look to the IITs to develop technologies that have a strong social impact. Solar-DC technology is a shining example of this, as it can quickly become part of every home in India and provide low-cost 24 x 7 power. The government should facilitate rapid adoption of this transformative technology.”

“This is one more recognition this year for IIT Madras”, said Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Member, Board of Governors, IIT Madras, Distinguished Alumnus, and co-founder Infosys and Axilor Ventures. “I am glad that this recognition is for pioneering work in the area of off-grid clean energy that will provide affordable electric power to India’s growing needs. I hope this technology will be widely adopted in India and developing countries.”

Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, was one of the first to recognize the potential of this technology and encourage IIT Madras to pursue trials and scaling. On learning about the award from IEEE, he said, “clearly roof top solar dc working in conjunction with conventional grid powered supply in households is an innovation with far reaching positive consequences in terms of assured availability, affordability, energy efficiency and adaptability in urban as well as rural areas in India and perhaps in other emerging economies. I also believe that in the not too distant future, we should see universal deployment of ac grid supply and solar driven local dc micro-grid working in tandem.”

Mr. M.M. Murugappan, Vice President, Murugappa Group, has been closely associated with IITM and IITM Research Park. “I am particularly pleased that the excellent work on Solar DC technology that has been developed and demonstrated in the laboratories at IIT Madras in a potentially scalable manner has won both endorsement and recognition”, he said. “Even more gratifying and encouraging is that this initiative at IITM has spawned many successful startup ventures at IITM Research Park which have addressed technological challenges and now are looking at commercial scale opportunities. All this has been possible through IITM’s vision of not only developing technology but also ensuring significant social impact, so important in our country. I greatly appreciate its leadership and sincerely hope that this fine recognition spurs the institution to even greater achievements across disciplines and nurtures more companies at the IITM Research Park.”

Director IIT Madras Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi added, “IIT Madras has been focused on developing several technologies with potential for wide social impact, such as in telecommunications, housing, water, renewable energy, waste management, and medical technology. This award will spur us to redouble our efforts to address the big challenges the country faces in these and other such areas. We thank MHRD and DST for supporting the research and initial trials of solar-DC technology. We are extremely grateful to Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy, Coal and Mines, who launched several products associated with solar-DC technology at IIT Madras in July 2016. Ministry of Power, along with Rural Electrification Corporation, has been pro-active and supportive in conducting large-scale trials of solar-DC technology in Rajasthan, Bihar and Assam. We are awaiting Ministry of New and Renewable Energy approval of 48V solar-DC technology for their rooftop and off-grid programmes, so that it can be deployed widely even with the smallest solar panels at homes”.