Event: Progressive Indian Cities: Moving Towards Near-Zero Energy Development
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.21.11
Speakers: Vatsal Bhatt — Brookhaven National Laboratory; Dr. Omkar Jani — Principal Research Scientist, Solar Energy Research Wing, Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute; Radhika Khosla — Welch Environmental Innovation Fellow, NRDC Center for Market Innovation; Sourabh Sen — Co-Founder & Co-Chairman, Astonfield Renewable Resources Ltd; Dr. Arun Kumar Tripathi — Director, Solar Cities Program, Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (in absentia; notes read by Bhatt).
Moderator: Shillpa Singh, LEED AP BD+C — Sustainability Manager, YRG Sustainability
Organizers: AIANY; Center for Architecture Foundation; India China Institute at The New School; Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC); Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA)
Sponsors: Grants: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; Underwriter: Duggal Visual Solutions; Lead Sponsors: Hitachi; Robert A.M. Stern Architects; Sponsors: Grapevine Merchants; Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects; Supporters: Bittersweet NYC; CetraRuddy; Kingfisher Lager; Friends: Arup; Benjamin Moore; IBEX Construction; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Perkins Eastman; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Special Thanks: Umberto Dindo, AIA; Lutz Konermann; Catherine Scharf
At the dawn of the 21st century, as many world powers squabble internally over renewable energy policies, India is embarking on an ambitious and far-reaching clean energy plan. According to Dr. Arun Kumar Tripathi, a key figure in India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the country intends to develop 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy — enough to power 20 million U.S. homes by a target date of 2022. Additionally, the government has also named 60 existing municipalities “solar cities” to reduce local energy consumption by 10% by 2012.
The Indian definition of “solar” incorporates not just photovoltaics, but also wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and other clean energy systems. Researchers, including Dr. Omkar Jani, of the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI), are working to construct photovoltaic arrays on state buildings in test cities such as Gandhinagar. India hopes that when the public sees these successes occurring at a local level, citizen demand will drive the private sector to provide small-scale PV systems for individual homeowner use.
The panelists agreed that education is key to the success of the government’s plan. For citizens to embrace these energy-saving strategies, they need to comprehend the importance and cost-benefit of such systems. Equally crucial is that technicians properly and effectively implement, operate, and maintain the physical apparatuses. Radhika Khosla, of the NRDC Center for Market Innovation, highlighted India’s understandable technical inexperience, and stressed that both private and public sector employees must be educated. At least in Gandhinahar, professional training will be available at the university level to those interested in careers in solar energy.
According to Sourabh Sen, a private developer of large PV arrays, India currently stands as the world’s fifth largest consumer of energy. Clearly, cooperation and communication among multiple parties will be required to achieve the government’s ambitious energy goals. Vatsal Bhatt, of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, outlined the partnerships already in place between India and the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, India is seeking the input of individuals, like Sen, who provide a private sector perspective on the bankability of such proposals. Regardless, what drives Indian government officials, private developers, planners, and scientists toward the physical implementation of such bold plans is the seductive vision of a nation with photovoltaic panels on the roofs of most houses (as illustrated in the rendering above).