Solar power in India

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Solar power in India is a fast developing industry, with a cumulative installed grid connected solar power capacity of 8,062 MW (8 GW) as of 31 July 2016,[1][2] In January 2015 the Indian government significantly expanded its solar plans, targeting US$100 billion of investment[3] and 100 GW of solar capacity[4] (including 40 GW from rooftop solar[5]) by 2022.[6][7] Large scale solar power deployment began only as recently as 2010, yet the ambitious targets would see India installing more than double that achieved by world leaders China or Germany in all of the period up to 2015 year end. The rapid growth in new deployments of solar power are recorded and updated monthly on the Indian Government's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy website.[2]

In addition to the ambitious large scale grid connected solar PV initiative India is also continuing to develop the use of solar power for off grid and localised energy needs. By the end of 2015 only 55% of all rural households had access to electricity and 85% of rural households depended on solid fuel for cooking.[8] Solar products have increasingly helped to meet rural needs, by the end of 2015 a cumulative total of just under 1 million solar lanterns had been sold in the country reducing the need for expensive kerosene.[8] In addition a cumulative total of 30,256 solar powered water pumps for agriculture and drinking water had been installed.[8] During 2015 alone 118,700 solar home lighting systems were installed and 46,655 solar street lighting installations were provided under a national programme.[8] The same year saw just over 1.4 million solar cookers distributed or sold in India.[8]

In January 2016 the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, and the President of France Mr François Hollande laid the founding stone for the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in Gwalpahari, Gurgaon. The ISA will focus on promoting and developing solar energy and solar products for countries lying wholly or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The alliance of over 120 countries was announced at the Paris COP21 climate summit.[9] One of the hopes of the ISA is that wider deployment will reduce production and development costs and so facilitate increased deployment of solar technologies, including in poorer and more remote regions.

India is ranked number one in terms of solar electricity production per watt installed, with an insolation of 1700 to 1900 kilowatt hours per kilowatt peak (kWh/KWp).[10] On 16 May 2011, India’s first solar power project (with a capacity of 5 MW) was registered under the Clean Development Mechanism. The project is in Sivagangai Village, Sivaganga district, Tamil Nadu.[11] India saw a sudden rise in use of solar electricity in 2010 when 25.1 MW was added to the grid, and the trend accelerated when 468.3 MW was added in 2011.[12] More recently growth has been over 3,000 MW per year (see table below) and is set to increase yet further. Government-funded solar electricity in India was just 6.4 MW per year in 2005.(~citation needed).

Solar resources[edit]

With about 300 clear, sunny days in a year, India's theoretically calculated solar energy incidence on its land area alone is about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (or 5 EWh/yr).[13][14][15] The solar energy available in a year exceeds the possible energy output of all fossil fuel energy reserves in India. The daily average solar power plant generation capacity over India is 0.20 kWh per m2 of used land area, which is equivalent to about 1400–1800 peak (rated) capacity operating hours in a year with the available commercially-proven technologies.[16]

Installations by region[edit]

Installed solar PV on 31 March
Year Cumulative Capacity (in MW)
2010
161
2011
461
2012
1,205
2013
2,319
2014
2,632
2015
3,744
2016
6,763
Installed Solar Power Capacity as of 30 September 2015
Growth of Solar Power in India[17]
State MW as of
31-Mar-2015
MW as of
31-Mar-2016
MW as of
31-July-2016
Rajasthan 942.10 1,269.93 1,294.60
Tamil Nadu 142.58 1,061.82 1,267.41
Gujarat 1,000.05 1,119.17 1,123.36
Andhra Pradesh 137.85 572.97 935.80
Telangana 167.05 527.84 845.84
Madhya Pradesh 558.58 776.37 790.37
Punjab 185.27 405.06 520.70
Maharashtra 360.75 385.76 385.76
Karnataka 77.22 145.46 238.32
Uttar Pradesh 71.26 143.50 143.50
Chhattisgarh 7.60 93.58 123.78
Odisha 31.76 66.92 66.92
Uttarakhand 5.00 41.15 41.15
Jharkhand 16.00 16.19 16.19
Haryana 12.80 15.39 15.39
Delhi 5.47 14.28 23.87
Kerala 0.03 13.05 13.05
West Bengal 7.21 7.77 11.77
Chandigarh 4.50 6.81 6.81
Andaman & Nicobar 5.10 5.10 5.10
Bihar 0.00 5.10 80.10
Tripura 5.00 5.00 5.00
Daman & Diu 0.00 4.00 4.00
Lakshadweep 0.75 0.75 0.75
Arunachal Pradesh 0.03 0.27 0.27
Puducherry 0.20 0.20 0.20
Jammu and Kashmir 1.00
Himachal Pradesh 0.27
Mizoram 0.10
Others 0.000 58.311 100.92
Total 3,743.97 6,762.853 8,062.039

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Tamil Nadu is the state with highest installed solar power capacity in India as on 21 September 2016. Kamuthi Solar Power Project with 648 mw capacity at a single location, was formally dedicated to the nation. With the addition of this plant, the total installed capacity in Tamilnadu is 2100 MW. This constitutes 21% of the installed renewable energy source in the state. The other 79 % is constituted by wind power. The plant is set up at Kamuthi, Ramanathapuram, in Tamil Nadu with an investment of Rs 4,550 crore. The plant consists of 3.80 lakh foundations, 25 lakh solar modules, 27,000 mt of structure, 576 inverters, 154 transformers along with 6,000-km cables. About 8,500 personnel worked on average installing about 11 MW in a day to set up the plant in the stipulated time.[18] Tamilnadu is now the leader in harnessing renewable energy using Solar and Wind energy.

Rajasthan[edit]

Rajasthan is one of India's most solar-developed states. The total photovoltaic capacity has passed 500 MW, having reached 510.25 MW by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.[19] The district of Jodhpur leads with 42 projects totaling 293 MW, followed by Jaisalmer and Bikaner. The French group AREVA Solar is currently engaged in constructing a 250 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) installation, which will become the largest CSP installation in Asia.[20][21][22] A 4000 MW Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project (UMPP) is being built near Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan. Upon completion, it would be the world's largest solar power plant.[citation needed] It is expected to be built in 4 phases, with the first phase likely to be commissioned by the end of 2016 with 1000 MW capacity. The total cost of each phase of the project is estimated to be 70 billion (US$1.0 billion) and the entire project is expected to be completed in 7 years. The present Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put great emphasis on solar projects and is inviting FDI in this sector.[23][24]

Gujarat[edit]

Gujarat has been a leader in solar power generation in India due to several factors: a very high solar power potential, availability of wasteland, good connectivity, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and efficient utilities— complemented by a strong political will and an investment, according to a report by the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP). The robust 2009 Solar Power of Gujarat policy framework, financing mechanism, and incentives have contributed to creating an enabling a green investment climate in the state and have led to ambitious targets for grid connected solar power.[25]

The State of Gujarat has commissioned Asia’s largest solar park at Charanka village.[26] The park is already generating 2 MW solar power out of its total planned capacity of 500 MW. The park has been functioning on a multi-developers and multi-beneficiaries paradigm and has been awarded for being the most innovative and environment-friendly project by the CII.

With a view to making Gandhinagar a solar-power city, the State government has launched a roof-top solar power generation scheme. Under this scheme, the State plans to generate 5 MW of solar power by putting solar panels on about 50 state government buildings and on 500 private buildings. The State has also a plan to emulate this project in Rajkot, Surat, Bhavnagar and Vadodara in 2012-13.

The state plans to generate solar power by putting solar panels on the Narmada canal branches. As a part of this scheme, the State has already commissioned the 1 MW Canal Solar Power Project on a branch of the Narmada Canal near the Chandrasan area of Kadi taluka, Mahesana district. This also helps by stopping 90,000 litres (24,000 US gal; 20,000 imp gal) of water/year of the Narmada river from evaporating.

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

Installed photovoltaic capacity in Andhra Pradesh is 936 MW as of 31 July 2016.[17] During 2014, APTransCo has entered into agreements with IPPs to install 619 MW.[27] NTPC also entered into agreement in 2015 with APTransCo to install a 250 MW plant (first phase of the 1000 MW ultra solar power project) at Kadiri in Anantapur district.[28][29]

Maharashtra[edit]

Sakri solar plant is the biggest solar power plant in the state with 125 MW capacity. The Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust has the world's largest solar steam system. It was constructed at the Shirdi shrine at an estimated cost of 1.33 crore (US$200,000), 58.4 lakh (US$87,000) which was paid as a subsidy by the renewable energy ministry. The system is used to cook 50 000 meals per day for pilgrims visiting the shrine, resulting in annual savings of 100 000 kg of cooking gas and has been designed to generate steam for cooking even in the absence of electricity to run the feed water pump for circulating water in the system. The project to install and commission the system was completed in 7 months and the system has a design life of 25 years.[30][31][32] Osmanabad region in Maharashtra has been blessed with an abundance of sunlight and is ranked the third best region in India in terms of solar insolation. A 10 MW solar power plant in Osmanabad, Maharashtra by RelyOn Solar, generates approximately 18 lakh units per MW which is the highest generation in Maharashtra of any solar power plant. This plant was commissioned in 2013 and the records of one complete year are available.

Madhya Pradesh[edit]

The Welspun Solar MP project, the largest solar power plant in the state, was set up at a cost of 1,100 crore (US$160 million) on 305 ha (3.05 km2) of land and will supply power at 8.05 (12¢ US)/kWh. A 130 MW solar power plant project at Bhagwanpur in Neemuch was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the largest solar producer and one of the top three companies in the renewable energy sector in India.[33]

An upcoming 750 MW solar power plant project in Madhya Pradesh in the district of Rewa will, when completed, be the world's largest solar power plant, replacing the Desert Sunlight project in California which currently has that distinction.

List of major photovoltaic power stations[edit]

India's major solar power production facilities are

Photovoltaic solar growth forecasts[edit]

As of August 2016, the forecast for photovoltaic solar installations is approximately 4.8 GW in the calendar year 2016. The country saw about 2.8 GW installed in the first eight months of 2016, more than all of the solar installations in 2015. India’s solar projects underway stood at approximately 21 GW with about 14 GW under construction and about 7 GW yet to be auctioned.[78]

Solar water heaters[edit]

Bangalore has the largest deployment of roof top solar water heaters in India. These heaters generate an energy equivalent of 200 MW.[79]

Bangalore is also the first city in the country to put in place an incentive mechanism by providing a rebate of 50 (74¢ US) on monthly electricity bills for residents using roof-top thermal systems.[80] These systems are now mandatory for all new structures.

Pune has also recently made installation of solar water heaters in new buildings mandatory.[81]

Rural electrification[edit]

Lack of electricity infrastructure is one of the main hurdles in the development of rural India. India's grid system is considerably under-developed, with major sections of its populace still surviving off-grid. As of 2004, about 80 000 of the nation's villages had not yet become electrified. Of these villages, 18 000 could not be electrified through an extension of the conventional grid. A target for electrifying 5000 such villages was set for the Tenth National Five Year Plan (2002–2007). As of 2004, more than 2700 villages and hamlets had been electrified, mainly using solar photovoltaic systems.[13] Developments in cheap solar technology are considered as a potential alternative that would allow an electricity infrastructure consisting of a network of local-grid clusters with distributed electricity generation.[82] It could allow bypassing (or at least relieving) the need to install expensive, wasteful, long-distance, centralized power delivery systems and yet bring cheap electricity to the masses.

India currently has around 1.2 million solar home lighting systems and 3.2 million solar lanterns sold or distributed.[83] In addition, India has been ranked the number one market in Asia for solar off-grid products.[84][85]

Projects currently planned include 3000 villages in Orissa, which will be lighted with solar power by 2014.[86][87][88][89]

Solar lamps and lighting[edit]

By 2012, a total of 4 600 000 solar lanterns and 861 654 solar powered home lights had been installed. These typically replace kerosene lamps and can be purchased for the cost of a few months' worth of kerosene through a small loan. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is offering a 30% to 40% subsidy for the cost of lanterns, home lights and small systems up to 210 Wp.[90] Twenty million solar lamps are expected by 2022.[91]

Agricultural support[edit]

Solar photovoltaic water pumping systems are used for irrigation and drinking water. The majority of the pumps are fitted with a 200–3000 watt motor powered with a 1800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 litres (37,000 US gal) of water per day from a total head of 10 metres (33 ft). By 30 September 2006 a total of 7068 solar photovoltaic water pumping systems had been installed,[82] and by March 2012 7771 had been installed.[92]

Solar driers are used to dry harvests before storage.[93]

Solar refrigeration and air conditioning[edit]

4 MW horizontal single axis tracker in Vellakoil, Tamil Nadu

Thin-film solar cell panels offer better performance than crystalline silica solar panels in tropical hot and dusty conditions like India. There is less deterioration in the conversion efficiency with increase in ambient temperature and no partial shading effect. These factors enhance the performance and reliability (fire safety) of the thin film panels.[94][95] The maximised solar electricity generation during the hot hours of the day can be used for meeting air conditioning requirements irrespective of other load requirements such as refrigeration, lighting, cooking, water pumping etc. in a residential house. The power generation of the photovoltaic modules can be enhanced further by 17 - 20% by equipping the modules with a tracking system[96]

Residential electricity consumers who are paying higher slab rates more than Rs 5 per unit, can form in to local groups to install collectively roof top off-grid solar power units (without much battery storage) and replace the costly power used from the grid with the solar power as and when produced. Thus power drawl from the grid which is an assured power supply without much power cuts nowadays, serves as cheaper back up source when grid power consumption is limited to lower slab rate by using solar power during the day time. The maximum power generation of solar panels during the sunny day time is complimentary with the enhanced residential electricity consumption during the hot/summer days due to higher use of cooling appliances such as fans, refrigerators, air conditioners, desert coolers, etc. It would discourage the DisComs to extract higher electricity charges selectively from its consumers. There is no need of any permission from DisComs similar to DG power sets installation.

Power grid stabilisation[edit]

Solar power plants equipped with battery storage systems wherever net energy metering is implemented can use the stored electricity to feed electricity into the power grid when its frequency is below the rated parameter (50 Hz) and draw the excess cheap power from the grid when its frequency is above the rated parameter.[97] Every day, frequency excursions above and below the rated grid frequency are in the order of 100 times in a day.[98][99] The solar power plant owner would get nearly double the price for the electricity sent into the grid compared to the electricity consumed from the grid if a frequency-based tariff is offered to rooftop solar power plants or solar power plants dedicated to a distribution substation.[100][101] A power purchase agreement (PPA) is not needed for solar power plants with a battery storage system to effectively serve ancillary services operations and to transmit generated electricity for captive consumption utilising an open access facility.[102] Battery storage is already popular in India with more than 10 million households using batteries as back-up in case of load shedding.[103] Battery storage systems are also used to improve the power factor.[104]

Challenges and opportunities[edit]

Price history of silicon PV cells (not modules) since 1977. The great thing about solar power is that it is a technology and not a fuel. It is unlimited and the more it is deployed the cheaper it would be.[105] While the more limited fossil fuels are used, the more expensive they become.

Land is a scarce resource in India and per capita land availability is low. Dedication of land area for exclusive installation of solar arrays often must compete with other necessities that require land. The amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants — currently approximately 1 km2 (250 acres) for every 40–60 MW generated — may pose a strain on India's available land resources. One alternative is to use the water surface area available on canals, lakes, reservoirs and the sea for locating large capacity solar power plants.[106] These water bodies can also provide the water needed for periodic cleaning of the solar panels. It is also possible to use highways and railways to avoid the excessive cost of land nearer to load centres and to minimise transmission line costs by installing solar power plants at a height of nearly 10 meters above the roads or rail tracks. The solar power generated by using road area can also be used for in-motion charging of electric vehicles to bring down fuel costs.[107] This practice would also protect the highways from damage from rain and intense summer heat and offer additional comfort to commuters.[108][109][110]

The architecture best suited to most of India would be a highly distributed set of individual rooftop power generation systems, all connected via a local grid. However, erecting such an infrastructure, which does not enjoy the economies of scale possible in mass, utility-scale, solar panel deployment, needs the market price of solar technology deployment to substantially decline, so that it attracts the individual and average family size household consumer. That might be possible in the future, because photovoltaics is projected to continue its current cost reductions and become able to compete with fossil fuel.[111][112] In the year 2016, the levelized tariff in US$ for solar electricity has fallen below 3 cents/kWh which is far cheaper than the fuel cost incurred by coal based power plants in India.[113][114][115] The Indian government has recently reduced the solar power purchase price from the maximum allowed levelized tariff of 5.79 Rs/KWh to 4.43 Rs/KWh to reflect the steep fall in the cost of solar power generation equipment.[116][117] The applicable tariff is offered after applying either viability gap funding (VGF) or accelerated depreciation (AD) incentives.[118][119]

Some noted think-tanks[13][120][121] recommend that India should adopt a policy of developing solar power as a dominant component of the renewable energy mix, since its identity as a densely populated region[122] in the sunny tropical belt[123][124] of the subcontinent has the ideal combination of both high solar insolation[123] and a high potential consumer base density.[125][126][127][128] In one of the analysed scenarios,[121] India could make renewable resources such as solar the backbone of its economy by 2050, reining in its long-term carbon emissions without compromising its economic growth potential. A recent study has suggested that 100 GW of solar power could be generated through a mix of utility-scale and rooftop solar, with the realizable potential for rooftop solar between 57 GW to 76 GW by 2024.[129]

During the year 2015-16, NTPC with 110 MW solar power installations, generated 160.8 million Kwh at a capacity utilisation of only 16.64% (i.e. 1458 Kwh/Kw) which is below the claimed norms (>20%) by the solar power industry.[36] Though substantial solar power capacity is already under operation, the operating performance data is not made available in the public domain.[130]

It is prudent to encourage solar power plant installations up to a threshold limit (say 7000 MW) by offering direct or indirect incentives.[131] Otherwise, dubious short sighted financial operators from all over the world could take over the industry to encash the liberal Indian bank loans offered by installing substandard and shorter life solar power plant equipment with overrated nameplate capacity.[132][133] The solar power purchaser (DisComs, etc.), solar power transmission agency (TransCos) and the Indian financial institutions should insist for annual penalty payment from IPPs for not meeting minimum guaranteed capacity utilisation and long term performance guarantee for the equipment backed by insurance coverage to ensure that the guarantee works even after the OEM becomes bankrupt.[134][135][136]

Government support[edit]

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Solar Radiation Resource Assessment stations in India

Solar Radiation Resource Assessment stations (51 nos) have been installed across India by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to create a database of solar energy potential. Data is collected and reported to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET), in order to create a Solar Atlas. In June 2015, India started a 40 crore (US$5.9 million) project to measure solar radiation with a spatial resolution of 3 km x 3 km. This solar radiation measuring network will provide the basis for the functioning of the Indian Solar Radiation Atlas. According to officials at NIWE, the Solar Radiation Resource Assessment wing (SRRA) 121 ground stations would measure the three parameters of solar radiation: Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) and Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI) to give a highly accurate measure of solar radiation in a particular region.[137][138]

The government of India is promoting the use of solar energy through various strategies. In the latest budget for FY2010-11, the government has announced an allocation of 1,000 crore (US$150 million) towards the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and the establishment of a clean energy fund. This is an increase of 380 crore (US$56 million) from the previous budget. This new budget has also encouraged private solar companies by reducing customs duty on solar panels by 5% and exempting excise duty on solar photovoltaic panels. This is expected to reduce the cost of a rooftop solar panel installation by 15–20%. The budget also proposed a coal tax of US$1 per metric tonne on domestic and imported coal used for power generation.[139] Additionally, the government has initiated a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC)[140] scheme, which is designed to drive investment in low-carbon energy projects.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy provides a 70% subsidy on the installation cost of a solar photovoltaic power plant in North-East states and a 30% subsidy on other regions. The detailed outlay of the National Solar Mission highlights various targets set by the government to increase solar energy in the country's energy portfolio.

The Mysore City Corporation has decided to set up a mega solar power plant in Mysore with a 50% concession from the Government of India.[141]

The Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco) has made plans for setting up more power plants in the state to increase total generation up to 200 MW.[142]

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation plans to install rooftop solar power plants at Anand Vihar and Pragati Maidan Metro stations and its residential complex at Pushp Vihar.[143]

Reeling under an acute power crises, the Government of Tamil Nadu has recently unveiled its new Solar Energy Policy which aims at increasing the installed solar capacity from the current approximate of 20 MW to over 3000 MW by 2015. The policy aims at fixing a 6% solar energy requirement on industries and residential buildings for which incentives in the form of tax rebates and current tariff rebates of up to 1 (1.5¢ US)/unit will be applicable to those who comply with the Solar Energy Policy. The policy also gives an option for those industries or buildings who do not want to install rooftop solar photo-voltaic systems to invest in the government's policy and be given the same incentives as explained above.[144]

Government Incentives[edit]

Grid parity for solar PV systems around the world
  Reached grid-parity before 2014
  Reached grid-parity after 2014
  Reached grid-parity only for peak prices
  U.S. states poised to reach grid-parity
Source: Deutsche Bank, as of February 2015

As of the end of July 2015, the following are the five most prominent incentives:

1. Accelerated Depreciation: For profit making enterprises installing rooftop solar systems, 40% of the total investment can be claimed as depreciation in the first year. This will significantly decrease tax to be paid in Year 1 for profit making companies.

2. Capital Subsidies: Capital subsidies are applicable to rooftop solar power plants, up to a maximum of 500 kW. While the original capital subsidy was 30%, it has recently been reduced to 15%.

3. Renewable Energy Certificates: Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are tradeable certificates that provide an incentive to those who generate green power by providing financial incentives for every unit of power they generate.

4. Net Metering Incentives: Net metering incentives depend on two aspects: a) whether the net meter is installed; and b) the incentive policy of the utility company. If there is a net metering incentive policy in our state and if there is a net meter on our rooftop, then we can get financial incentives for the power generated.[145]

5. Assured Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): The power distribution and purchase companies owned by state and central governments guarantee the purchase of solar power as and when it is produced. The PPAs offer a high price equal to that of the peaking power on demand for the solar power which is secondary power or negative load and an intermittent energy source on daily basis.

Hybrid solar plants[edit]

Hybrid in Leh, J&K state

In India, solar power is often built to be complementary to wind power as it is generated mostly during the non-monsoon period in daytime. Solar power plants can be located in the inter-space between the towers of wind power plants or nearby areas with a common power evacuation facility. It is also complementary to hydro electricity, which is generated mainly during India's monsoon months. Solar power plants can be installed close to existing hydro power and pumped-storage hydroelectricity plants with the advantage of being able to utilise the existing power evacuation infrastructure jointly and store the surplus secondary power generated by the solar power plants.

Bulk raw materials of solar panels[edit]

During the year 2016, the manufacturing capacity of solar cells and solar modules is 1212 MW and 5620 MW respectively in India.[146] Other than high purity silica wafers or rare earth metal tellurium with cadmium (thin film type), the bulk of the solar panel weight (nearly 80%) consists of flat glass.[147] One-hundred to 150 tons of flat glass is used in manufacturing one MW capacity solar photovoltaic module. Low iron flat glass or float glass is manufactured from soda ash and iron free silica. Soda ash manufacturing from common salt is a highly energy intensive process if not extracted from soda lakes or glasswort plants cultivation on alkali soils. To enable an exponential increase in the installation of photovoltaic type solar power plants, the production capacity of flat glass along with its raw materials needs to be rapidly expanded in the country to eliminate future imports / supply constraints.[148]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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