New Proposals for Solar Power
- Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has received proposals from various players for over 10 gigawatts (GW) of fresh solar equipment manufacturing. Earlier, a 750 megawatt (MW) solar project was also inaugurated in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.
- These moves are in line with India’s commitment to attain the target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022 including 100 GW of solar installed capacity.
- This rise of interest in the domestic manufacture of solar equipment coincides with other measures of the government to promote domestic industry like increasing duties on imports across sectors, including solar power.
- There is a proposal of increasing customs duty to around 20-25% on solar equipment and also for a 5% interest subvention scheme for the domestic manufacturing of ingots, wafers and cells.
- However, these duty changes should be in compliance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) standards.
Solar Power and India:
- There has been a significant progress in solar capacity addition since 2014, with India progressively emerging as the world’s third largest solar market.
- However, the domestic solar equipment manufacturing industry has largely failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
- Despite a 20GW demand for solar cell manufacturing, India’s current average annual capacity is only around 3GW.
- Nearly 80% of the inputs and components are imported from China as it was the top exporter of solar cells and modules to India in the Financial Year 2019-20, accounting for USD1.68 billion of the product into the country.
- India has implemented safeguard duties on import of solar equipment from China and Malaysia, which have been extended until July 2021 at a rate of around 15%.
- However, a safeguard duty is of limited duration and will therefore not induce people to make long-term commitments in terms of investments.
- Despite all these initiatives to incentivise domestic production, the safeguard duty, domestic content requirement policy and an approved list of models and manufacturers, the expected scale-up has not materialised.
- There are about 16 solar cell manufacturers in India of which only half have a manufacturing capacity of 100 MW or higher.
Reasons for Less Development of Solar Energy in India:
- Solar cell manufacturing is a complicated process that is technology and capital intensive and it also upgrades every 8-10 months.
- The global market of solar wafer and ingot manufacturing is dominated by China, whose companies dominate the Indian solar components market too with their competitive pricing.
- The government’s move to shift from the use of short-term safeguard duties to protect domestic manufacturers to the imposition of customs duties has induced the industry to make long-term commitments in terms of investments.
- It is an indication that the centre’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan could be yielding early results in the solar energy space.
- Perseids Meteor Shower
Why in News
The Perseids meteor shower will be active from 17 -26 August 2020.
- This is an annual celestial event and is considered the best meteor shower, as many bright meteors and fireballs shoot through the sky making it easy for people to watch it from Earth.
- Meteor: It is a space rock or meteoroid that enters Earth’s atmosphere. Meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids.
- Most are pieces of other, larger bodies that have been broken or blasted off. These come from comets, asteroids, planets and the Moon.
- When meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere (or that of another planet, like Mars) at high speed and burn up, the fireballs or “shooting stars” are called meteors.
- As the space rock falls towards the Earth, the resistance—or drag—of the air on the rock makes it extremely hot.
- As it passes through the atmosphere, it leaves behind streaks of glowing gas (shooting star) that are visible to the observers.
- Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material.
- When a meteoroid survives its journey through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it’s called a
- When Earth encounters many meteoroids at once, it is called a meteor shower.
- Comets, like Earth and the other planets, also orbit the sun. Unlike the nearly circular orbits of the planets, the orbits of comets are usually quite lop-sided.
- As a comet gets closer to the sun, some of its icy surface boils off, releasing lots of particles of dust and rock (meteoroids).
- This comet debris gets scattered along the comet’s path, especially in the inner solar system (includes planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) as the sun’s heat boils off more and more ice and debris.
- Then, several times each year as Earth makes its journey around the sun, its orbit crosses the orbit of a comet, which means Earth encounters a bunch of comet debris.
- Meteor showers are named for the constellation where the meteors appear to be coming from. So, for example, the Orionids Meteor Shower, which occurs in October each year, appears to be originating near the constellation ‘Orion the Hunter’.
Perseids Meteor Shower:
- It peaks every year in mid-August. It was first observed over 2,000 years ago. The Perseids occur as the Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
- The cloud of debris is about 27 km wide, and at the peak of the display, between 160 and 200 meteors streak through the Earth’s atmosphere every hour as the pieces of debris, travelling at some 2.14 lakh km per hour, burn up a little less than 100 km above the Earth’s surface.
- It gets its name from the constellation Perseus.
- Pollution and monsoon clouds make the Perseids difficult to view from India.
- Comet Swift-Tuttle: It was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle and takes 133 years to complete one rotation around the sun.
- Dwarf Planet Ceres
Why in News
As per the data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, dwarf planet Ceres reportedly has salty water underground.
- Dawn (2007-18) was a mission to the two most massive bodies in the main asteroid belt – Vesta and
- The scientists have given Ceres the status of an “ocean world” as it has a big reservoir of salty water underneath its frigid surface.
- This has led to an increased interest of scientists that the dwarf planet was maybe habitable or has the potential to be.
- Ocean Worlds is a term for ‘Water in the Solar System and Beyond’.
- The salty water originated in a brine reservoir spread hundreds of miles and about 40 km beneath the surface of the Ceres.
- Further, there is an evidence that Ceres remains geologically active with cryovolcanism – volcanoes oozing icy material.
- Instead of molten rock, cryovolcanoes or salty-mud volcanoes release frigid, salty water sometimes mixed with mud.
- Subsurface Oceans on other Celestial Bodies: Jupiter’s moon Europa, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Neptune’s moon Triton, and the dwarf planet Pluto.
- This provides scientists a means to understand the history of the solar system.
- It is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was the first member of the asteroid belt to be discovered when Giuseppe Piazzi spotted it in 1801.
- It is the only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system (includes planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars).
- Scientists classified it as a dwarf planet in 2006. It has a diameter of about 950 km, which is more than one-fourth of Earth’s moon.
- It takes 1,682 Earth days, or 4.6 Earth years, to make one trip around the sun. It completes one rotation around its axis every 9 hours. It does not have any moon or rings.
- It has a 92 km wide crater named Occator located in its northern hemisphere.
- According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which sets definitions for planetary science, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that – orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and is not a moon.
- The first five recognised dwarf planets are Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and
- World Elephant Day
Why in News
The World Elephant Day is celebrated on 12 August every year to spread awareness for the conservation and protection of the largest mammal on land.
- The day was launched in 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.
- Asian Elephants: There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
- Global Population: Estimated 20,000 to 40,000.
The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
- There are around 28,000 elephants in India with around 25% of them in Karnataka.
- IUCN Red List Status: Endangered.
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
African Elephants: There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant.
- Global Population: Around 4,00,000.
- IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable.
- Earlier in July 2020, Botswana (Africa) witnessed the death of hundreds of elephants.
- Escalation of poaching.
- Habitat loss.
- Human-elephant conflict.
- Mistreatment in captivity.
- Abuse due to elephant tourism.
Steps Taken for Conservation:
- Plans and programmes to arrest their poachers and killers.
- Declaration and establishment of various elephant reserves across the states. For example, Mysuru and Dandeli elephant reserves in
- Clean areas from lantana and eupatorium (invasive species) as they prevent the growth of grass for elephants to feed on.
- Barricades to prevent man-elephant conflicts. Measures for establishment of a cell to study forest fire
- Gaj Yatra which is a nationwide awareness campaign to celebrate elephants and highlight the necessity of securing elephant corridors.
- The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, launched in 2003, is an international collaboration that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants from across Africa and Asia, to monitor effectiveness of field conservation efforts.
- It is a centrally sponsored scheme and was launched in February 1992 for the protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change provides the financial and technical support to major elephant range states in the country through the project.
- Even mahouts (people who work with, ride and tend an elephant) and their families play an important part in the welfare of elephants.
- Forest loss threatens hornbills
Why in news
A study based on satellite data has flagged a high rate of deforestation in a major hornbill habitat in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Using fine-scale satellite imagery, changes in forest cover of Papum Reserve Forest (RF) adjoining the Pakke Tiger Reserve as well as a part of Assam affected by illegal felling and ethnic conflict was assessed.
- Papum RF is a nesting habitat of three species of the large, colourful fruit-eating hornbills: Great Hornbill , Wreathed Hornbill , Oriental Pied Hornbill
- Results show the loss and degradation of critical hornbill habitat in the biologically rich forests of the Indian Eastern Himalaya.
- The data pointed to alarming deforestation rates in Papum RF with the forest cover having declined to 76% of the total RF area.
- The ecologists assessed the habitat loss due to illegal logging. Illegal logging, has led to fewer tall trees where the birds nest.
- Also, forests are often under pressure due to agricultural expansion, conversion to plantations .
- According to the Global Forest Watch 2020 report, the State lost 1,110 sq.km. of primary forest from 2002-2019.
- Hornbills used to be hunted for their casques – upper beak and feathers for headgear despite being cultural symbols of some ethnic communities in the northeast, specifically the Nyishi of Arunachal Pradesh.
- A 20-year-old conservation programme entailing the use of fibre-glass beaks reduced the threat to the birds to a large extent.