Millennium Post

Global energy industry eyes Indian solar pie

Global energy  industry eyes Indian  solar pie
The sun has been worshiped from ancient times. Legend has it that a man named Icarus built wings of wax and flew close to the sun but his wax wings melted and he crashed to his doom. Today, mankind has ventured into a different approach in capturing the sun’s heat and harnessing it for the benefit of the whole world. The emphasis today is on small scale captive solar units and plants to enormous solar parks outside cities and even in deserts.

Yet, the development of solar energy capturing efforts in India is still to catch up with the rest of the world, due to various reasons including legislation, restricted land use, financial and environmental problems, power stealing. With India’s burgeoning population crossing the billion mark, and its megacities including the Capital Delhi and rural areas desperate for power, tapping into the right sources has become the need of the hour even as power industry representatives make a beeline for India to grab a major slice of its power pie.

A massive event called Intersolar India 2013 in Mumbai recently drew the world’s best and biggest participants in this industry to brainstorm, highlight and showcase cutting-edge technologies that would greatly help the power-hungry cities and rural areas of the country, which is already beleaguered by power cuts and shortages. What emerged was a stunning highlight of information and success in by mankind in capturing and delivering the mighty sun’s power down to earth, while simultaneously keeping the planet pollution-free and making money in the process.

Describing India as a good source of renewable energy, Union New and Renewable Energy Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor told solar experts and industrialists in Mumbai that the role of new and renewable energy is assuming increasing significance in recent times with growing concern for the country’s energy security. Harnessing the resources present in the country could make India successfully energy independent and the Government has been taking necessary steps to make this a reality, including through the National Solar Mission initiative which promises 20,000 MW of Grid Power and Off-Grid power by 2022, he said.

The Indian Power sector comprises thermal (1,55,969 mw), small hydro (3,727 mw), solar (2,080 mw) and biomass (3,777 mw).  Indian solar power projects in Phase I (2010 to 2013) will generate 1,100 mw. In India Government schemes totalling 802.05 mw in solar projects have been allotted of which 329.3 mw projects have been commissioned. ‘We are viewing solar water pumps (Rajasthan has taken it seriously) and have 25,000 such systems in India. But farmers do not want to make such investments as they are used to free electricity and low investments. This is a huge market as 25 per cent of electricity is consumed in the agricultural sector,’ he said.

‘With coal-based power projects witnessing soaring costs and the CRC stepping in, solar power –  where sunlight will always be free — is the answer with no maintenance or challenges foreseen after the project is set up, electricity prices coming down (we want to bring it down to Rs 5.50) though not to unsustainable levels. It will come to Rs 6 crore per mw through UMSPP. In Ladakh, power transmission is an issue though solar radiation there is the best and land has been identified for this purpose.’

Kapoor said Ultra Mega Solar Projects also are coming up in India with plans for a 4 Gigawatt (gw) solar power project through a JV in the periphery of Sambhar Lake near Jaipur, 3 gw solar park in Jodhpur, 4 gw solar and 700 mw windpower in Gujarat, besides two others  in Ladakh and Kargil.’

MMI India Pvt ltd CEO Darryl Dasilva said that according to the MNRE, Gujarat has close to 60 per cent (824.09 mw) of India’s total installed solar power capacity, while Rajasthan — which has the highest solar resource in the country — has a 30 per cent share. R K Satpathy of Solar Energy Society of India said that while renewable energy is making its impact on rural masses, it’s use in urban and semi-urban applications including rooftop solar PV systems is growing and presently there are around 2,000 mw grid-connected power plants operating in India.

Dr Reinhold Buttgereit of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said China was forecasted to take over as the leading photovoltaic manufacturer from Germany for 2013-14 due to European PV companies in trouble because of overcapacity, financial and currency crisis, mismanagement, not enough R/D investments, no successful branding, not enough coordinated European Energy policy (28 European states having their own policies), and dumping cases in discussion (EU-China PV trade conflict).  Quoting International Energy Agency statistics, he said barely $6 billion — out of a whopping $409 billion fund — was spent on renewable energy (including fossil fuel subsidies) in 2010. With coal plants being socially and environmentally unhealthy, and gas plants not being economic, the present scenario highlighted need for renewable energy systems.

Enrich Energy Pvt Ltd’s success story includes its first Solar Park in Maharashtra with a first unit of 1 mw capacity on a total 160-acre land in Solapur (Maharashtra) in September 2012, besides commissioning a 10.65 mw plant in March 2013 and a 17.60 MW plant in August-September 2013. Set to cost Rs 300 crore, this solar park is expected to be fully operational with 40 mw by December 2014, said Pradeep V Patil, Head of Business Development, of the company.

‘Besides being headquartered in nearby Pune, we found Solapur good due to its solar radiation levels and its proximity to neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Investment here was done under the Renewable Energy Certification (REC) mechanism with power sale options at Average Pool Price Cost tariffs to only the state distribution company (MSEDCL) and under Open Access mechanism. The speciality of this park is various investors are involved in here in capacities ranging from point six mw to multi-megawatt capacity and are getting common infrastructural benefits like: Common Power Evacuation Facility, common security arrangements, common monitoring systems etc,’ he said.

‘We signed an Expression of Interest with the Karnataka Government for setting up an 80MW over the next few years in a phase-wise manner. Our next destination is Andhra Pradesh where a 40MW project is in the initial stages within a fixed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA),’ he said, adding, ‘Our technology is not related to heat or sun but radiation levels available (intensity of light and sunny days available) as Solapur has over 300 sunny days per year. Secondly, our focus is also on Western and Central Maharashtra — which needs power — and developing solar power projects here result in lower transmission and distribution losses.’

‘The good news is that such projects reduce the country’s carbon footprint while also providing financial gain for the investors. Our Solapur project is also entitled to carbon credits benefits within the Clean Development Mechanism as it will reduce 66,576 tonnes of carbon emissions while generating additional revenue of Rs 18.64 million annually,’ Patil noted.

Mihir Kumar Bhattacharya, Executive Director of Sova Power Ltd based in Salt Lake, Kolkata, said that Sova has completed a Solar/Wind hybrid 23kW project at Dapoli in Maharashtra, besides also a 1MW SPV grid-connected solar power plant at Jamuria in Burdwan district of West Bengal.  ‘The West Bengal Government wanted to set up a Solar Plant at Jamuria under the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd through competitive bidding and we bagged this contract of around Rs 7.21 crores in 2011-12,’ said Bhattacharya, while describing this project as ‘a challenging one — where the time frame was reduced due to various factors that were not in our hands. We completed it in record time, despite numerous but initial problems like land acquisition. This was the first biggest power project attempted by us and is working successfully today.’

Echoing this while lamenting political hindrances, Soumyen Mukherjee, Business Coordinator of Sova Power Ltd, said, ‘Our role was only as an EPC solution provider with the land being provided by Dishergarh Power Supply Ltd. This is the first project in Eastern India commissioned with “String Inverter (PCU) using our manufactured Solar Poly Crystalline PV Modules of 250 Wp. The project was completed on March 2, 2012 within 21 days despite political hindrances during installation and commissioning, and secondly, delayed realization from the developers.’

Speaking about India’s first mw-scale PV-Diesel Hybrid Solar Power Plant, Chemtrols Solar Private Ltd (India) Chief Executive Officer  Sharad Saxena described it as the first in Asia and the second PV in the world, besides also being the largest PV plant on a Sloping Factory Rooftop which has been commissioned in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. The Rs 7-7.5 crore plant featured a unique sprinkler mechanism to clean the solar modules that were facing the sun, besides also lightweight aluminium railings to carpet the rooftop modules and protect them from high-speed wind. A fuel saver system was also introduced that enabled the plant to preserve 65 per cent to 70 per cent of energy required by the factory.  The construction time taken for this plant was 22 days, alongside 45 days to obtain materials, with the total completion time coming to 60 days and the plant being commissioned in March 2013, he said.

He said what was also unique about this plant was the fact that it saved ground space — with the entire 1 mw being installed on the roof. This plant also saved 4,500 units daily on energy drawn from the grid in the daytime, and earned additional revenue of sale of Solar RECs at a price of Rs 220 lakhs per annum, besides the benefit of being recognized as Green Energy.

Also diesel consumption by DG sets were reduced by upto 70 per cent during peak hours, though the solar plant use was for daytime only and not at night — when diesel generation sets were used for power generation. However, this plant model is a Fit and Forget type requiring no maintenance with the Panels having a 25-year warranty and giving an 80 per cent output even after 25 years, he said.
Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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