Solar power in India

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Solar power in India is a fast developing industry. The country's solar installed capacity reached 26 GW as of 30 September 2018.[1][2] India expanded its solar-generation capacity 8 times from 2,650 MW on 26 May 2014 to over 20 GW as on 31 January 2018.[3][4] The 20 GW capacity was initially targeted for 2022 but the government achieved the target four years ahead of schedule.[3][4][5] The country added 3 GW of solar capacity in 2015-2016, 5 GW in 2016-2017 and over 10 GW in 2017-2018, with the average current price of solar electricity dropping to 18% below the average price of its coal-fired counterpart.[6][7][8]

In January 2015 the Indian government expanded its solar plans, targeting US$100 billion in investment and 100 GW of solar capacity (including 40 GW from rooftop solar) by 2022.[9][10][11][12][13] India's initiative of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 is an ambitious target, since the world's installed solar-power capacity in 2017 is expected to be 303 GW.[14][15] The improvements in solar thermal storage power technology in recent years has made this task achievable as the cheaper solar power need not depend on costly and polluting coal/gas/nuclear based power generation for ensuring stable grid operation.[16][17][18]

In addition to its large-scale grid-connected solar PV initiative, India is developing off-grid solar power for local energy needs.[19] Solar products have increasingly helped to meet rural needs; by the end of 2015 just under one million solar lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene.[20] That year, 118,700 solar home lighting systems were installed and 46,655 solar street lighting installations were provided under a national program;[20] just over 1.4 million solar cookers were distributed in India.[20]

In January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President François Hollande laid the foundation stone for the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in Gwal Pahari, 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.[21] One hope of the ISA is that wider deployment will reduce production and development costs, facilitating the increased deployment of solar technologies to poor and remote regions.

A report published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)[22] found that India installed 10 GW of solar in 2017, almost double its record in 2016. Crucially, India’s “Scheme for Development of Solar Parks” has proven successful at attracting foreign capital toward construction of the world’s largest ultra-mega solar parks.[23][24]

Solar map of India
Global Horizontal Irradiation in India [25]

Resources[edit]

With about 300 clear and sunny days in a year, the calculated solar energy incidence on India's land area is about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (or 5 EWh/yr).[26][27] The solar energy available in a single year exceeds the possible energy output of all of the fossil fuel energy reserves in India. The daily average solar-power-plant generation capacity in India is 0.20 kWh per m2 of used land area, equivalent to 1400–1800 peak (rated) capacity operating hours in a year with available, commercially-proven technology.[28][29]

Installations by region[edit]

Installed solar PV on 31 March[30]
Year Cumulative Capacity (in MW)
2010
161
2011
461
2012
1,205
2013
2,319
2014
2,632
2015
3,744
2016
6,763
2017
12,289
2018
21,651
Installed solar power capacity (MW)[2]
State 31 March 2015 31 March 2016 31 March 2017 31 December 2017[31]
Rajasthan 942.10 1,269.93 1,812.93 2,310.46
Punjab 185.27 405.06 793.95 905.64
Uttar Pradesh 71.26 143.50 336.73 550.38
Uttarakhand 5.00 41.15 233.49 246.89
Haryana 12.80 15.39 81.40 203.85
Delhi 5.47 14.28 40.27 58.02
Jammu and Kashmir 0.00 1.36 1.36 2.36
Chandigarh 4.50 6.81 17.32 18.89
Himachal Pradesh 0.00 0.73 0.73 1.48
Northern Region 3318.18
Gujarat 1,000.05 1,119.17 1,249.37 1,344.69
Maharashtra 360.75 385.76 452.37 763.08
Chhattisgarh 7.60 93.58 128.86 179.38
Madhya Pradesh 558.58 776.37 857.04 1,210.11
Dadra and Nagar Haveli 0.00 0.00 2.97 2.97
Goa 0.00 0.00 0.71 0.71
Daman and Diu 0.00 4.00 10.46 10.46
Western Region 2701.78
Tamil Nadu 142.58 1,061.82 1,691.83 1,819.42
Andhra Pradesh 137.85 572.97 1867.23 2,165.21
Telangana 167.05 527.84 1,286.98 2,990.07
Kerala 0.03 13.05 74.20 88.20
Karnataka 77.22 145.46 1,027.84 1,800.85
Puducherry 0.20 0.20 0.08 0.11
Southern Region 5948.16
Bihar 0.00 5.10 108.52 141.52
Odisha 31.76 66.92 79.42 79.51
Jharkhand 16.00 16.19 23.27 23.37
West Bengal 7.21 7.77 26.14 39.84
Sikkim 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01
Eastern Region 237.35
Assam 0.00 0.00 11.78 11.78
Tripura 5.00 5.00 5.09 5.09
Arunachal Pradesh 0.03 0.27 0.27 4.39
Mizoram 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.20
Manipur 0.00 0.00 0.03 1.33
Meghalaya 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.06
Nagaland 0.00 0.00 0.50 0.50
North Eastern Region 17.78
Andaman and Nicobar 5.10 5.10 6.56 12.61
Lakshadweep 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.75
Others 0.00 58.31 58.31 58.31
Islands and others 65.62
Total 3,743.97 6,762.85 12,288.83 17,052.37

Karnataka[edit]

Karnataka is the top solar state in India exceeding 5,000 MW installed capacity by the end of financial year 2017-18.[32] The installed capacity of Pavagada Solar Park is 600 MW and its ultimate 2,000 MW installed capacity is expected by the end of year 2020.

Telangana[edit]

Telangana ranks second when it comes to solar energy generation capacity in India. The state is trailing behind Karnataka with a solar power generation capacity of 3400 MW and plans to achieve a capacity of 5000 MW by 2022.[33]

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

Installed photovoltaic capacity in Andhra Pradesh is more than 2049 MW as on 31 July 2017.[34][35] In 2014, the IPPs agreed with APTransCo to install 619 MW.[36] The following year, NTPC agreed with APTransCo to install the 250-MW NP Kunta Ultra Mega Solar Power Project near Kadiri in Anantapur district.[37][38] In October 2017, 1000 MW was commissioned at Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park which has become the world's largest solar power plant.[39]

Rajasthan[edit]

Rajasthan is one of India's most solar-developed states, with its total photovoltaic capacity reaching 2289 MW by the end of June, 2018. Rajasthan is also home to the worlds largest Fresnel type 125 MW CSP plant at the Dhirubhai Ambani Solar Park.[6][40] Jodhpur district leads the state with installed capacity of over 1,500 MW, followed by Jaisalmer and Bikaner.

The Bhadla Solar Park, with a total ultimate capacity of 2,255 MW, is being developed in four phases of which 260 MW capacity was commissioned by NTPC Limited. Total installed capacity at the end of June, 2018 is 745 MW and the remaining capacity is expected to be commissioned by March, 2019. In September 2018 Acme Solar announced that it had commissioned India's cheapest solar power, 200 MW at Bhadla [41].

The only tower type solar thermal power plant (2.5 MW) in India is located in Bikaner district.[42]

Tamil Nadu[edit]

Tamil Nadu has the 5th highest installed solar-power capacity in India on May 2018. The total installed capacity in Tamil Nadu is 1,8 GW.[32] On 1 July 2017, Solar power tariff in Tamil Nadu has hit an all-time low of Rs 3.47 per unit when bidding for 1500 MW capacity was held.[43][44]

The 648-MW Kamuthi Solar Power Project is the biggest operating project in the state. On 1 January 2018, NLC India Limited (NCIL) commissioned a new 130 MW solar power project in Neyveli.[45]

Gujarat[edit]

Gujarat is one of India's most solar-developed states, with its total photovoltaic capacity reaching 1,262 MW by the end of July 2017. Gujarat has been a leader in solar-power generation in India due to its high solar-power potential, availability of vacant land, connectivity, transmission and distribution infrastructure and utilities. According to a report by the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) report, these attributes are complemented by political will and investment.[full citation needed] The 2009 Solar Power of Gujarat policy framework, financing mechanism and incentives have contributed to a green investment climate in the state and targets for grid-connected solar power.[46][47]

The state has commissioned Asia's largest solar park near the village of Charanka in Patan district.[48] The park is generating 2 MW of its total planned capacity of 500 MW, and has been cited as an innovative and environmentally-friendly project by the Confederation of Indian Industry.[full citation needed]

To make Gandhinagar a solar-power city, the state government has begun a rooftop solar-power generation scheme. Under the scheme, Gujarat plans to generate 5 MW of solar power by putting solar panels on about 50 state-government buildings and 500 private buildings.

It also plans to generate solar power by putting solar panels along the Narmada canals. As part of this scheme, the state has commissioned the 1 MW Canal Solar Power Project on a branch of the Narmada Canal near the village of Chandrasan in Mehsana district. The pilot project is expected to stop 90,000 litres (24,000 US gal; 20,000 imp gal) of water per year from evaporating from the Narmada River.

Maharashtra[edit]

The 125-MW Sakri solar plant is the largest solar-power plant in Maharashtra. The Shri Saibaba 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$190,000), 58.4 lakh (US$81,000) 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 was designed to generate steam for cooking even in the absence of electricity to run the circulating pump. The project to install and commission the system was completed in seven months, and the system has a design life of 25 years.[49][50][51] The Osmanabad region in Maharashtra has abundant sunlight, and is ranked the third-best region in India in solar insolation. A 10 MW solar power plant in Osmanabad was commissioned in 2013. The total power capacity of Maharashtra is about 500 MW.

Madhya Pradesh[edit]

Madhya Pradesh is one of India's most solar-developed states, with its total photovoltaic capacity reaching 1,117 MW by the end of July 2017. The Welspun Solar MP project, the largest solar-power plant in the state, was built at a cost of 1,100 crore (US$150 million) on 305 ha (3.05 km2) of land and will supply power at 8.05 (11¢ US) per kWh. A 130 MW solar power plant project at Bhagwanpura, a village in Neemuch district, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is the largest solar producer, and Welspun Energy is one of the top three companies in India's renewable-energy sector.[52] A planned 750 MW solar-power plant in Rewa district is also planned and expected to be completed in 2018. This is developing by Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited.[53][better source needed]

Kerala[edit]

India's largest floating solar power plant was set upon the Banasura Sagar reservoir in Wayanad, Kerala. The 500 kW (kilowatt peak) solar plant of the Kerala state electricity board (KSEB) floats on 1.25 acres of the water surface of the reservoir. The solar plant has 1,938 solar panels which have been installed on 18 Ferro cement floaters with hollow insides.[54]

Electricity generation[edit]

Grid-connected solar electricity generation has reached nearly 2% of total utility electricity generation.[55] Solar generation meets the daytime peak load in non-monsoon months when electricity spot prices exceed the daily average price.[56]

Annual solar power generation
Year Solar power generation (TWh)
2013-14
3.35
2014-15
4.60
2015-16
7.45
2016-17
12.09
2017-18
25.87
Monthly solar power generation in India, April 2017 - March 2018
Month Regional solar power generation (GWh)[57] Total (GWh)[58]
North West South East North East
April 2017 458.76 419.26 833.47 40.16 0.99 1,752.74
May 2017 528.92 426.05 935.51 39.72 1.17 1,931.30
June 2017 489.02 399.95 871.08 36.36 0.92 1,803.35
July 2017 461.40 282.92 886.69 27.17 0.98 1,661.29
August 2017 504.42 363.99 765.21 30.43 1.17 1,660.26
September 2017 547.08 438.70 974.52 32.84 0.94 2,002.51
October 2017 608.61 456.16 1,069.60 33.31 1.11 2,186.00
November 2017 518.77 489.30 1,083.92 19.27 1.32 2,094.59
December 2017 483.35 465.63 1242.36 31.49 3.35 2,242.64
January 2018 - - - - - 2,547.77
February 2018 548.61 546.80 1,530.38 35.23 0.98 2,677.10
March 2018 685.27 703.39 1,872.31 49.26 1.29 3,311.53
Total (GWh) - - - - - 25,871.08

Major photovoltaic power stations[edit]

Below is a list of solar power generation facilities with a capacity of at least 10 MW.

Major photovoltaic (PV) power plants
Plant State DC peak power (MW) Commissioned
Kamuthi Solar Power Project Tamil Nadu 648 21 September 2016[59]
Charanka Solar Park[60] Gujarat 221 April 2012
Welspun Solar MP project[61] Madhya Pradesh 151 February 2014
ReNew Power, Nizamabad Telangana 143 15 April 2017[62]
Sakri solar plant Maharashtra 125 March 2013
NTPC solar plants[63] 110 2015
Maharashtra I Maharashtra 67 2017
Green Energy Development Corporation (GEDCOL)[64] Odisha 50 2014
Tata Power Solar Systems (TPS), Rajgarh[65] Madhya Pradesh 50 March 2014
Welspun Energy, Phalodhi[66] Rajasthan 50 March 2013
Jalaun Solar Power Project Uttar Pradesh 50 27 January 2016
GEDCOL[67] Odisha 48 2014
Karnataka I Karnataka 40 2018
Bitta Solar Power Plant[68] Gujarat 40 January 2012
Dhirubhai Ambani Solar Park, Pokhran[69] Rajasthan 40 April 2012
Rajasthan Photovoltaic Plant[70] Rajasthan 35 February 2013
Welspun, Bathinda[71] Punjab 34 August 2015
Moser Baer, Patan district[72] Gujarat 30 October 2011
Lalitpur Solar Power Project[73] Uttar Pradesh 30 2015
Mithapur Solar Power Plant[74] Gujarat 25 25 January 2012
GEDCOL[75] Odisha 20 2014
Kadodiya Solar Park Madhya Pradesh 15 2014
Telangana I Telangana 12 2016
Telangana II Telangana 12 2016
NTPC Odisha 10 2014
Sunark Solar Odisha 10 2011
RNS Infrastructure Limited, Pavagada Karnataka 10 2016
Bolangir Solar Power Project Odisha 10 2011
Azure Power, Sabarkantha[76][77] Gujarat 10 June 2011
Green Infra Solar Energy, Rajkot[78][79] Gujarat 10 November 2011
Waa Solar Power Plant, Surendranagar[80] Gujarat 10 December 2011
Sharda Construction, Latur[81] Maharashtra 10 June 2015
Ushodaya Project, Midjil Telangana 10 December 2013

Solar photovoltaic growth forecasts[edit]

In August 2016, the forecast for solar photovoltaic installations was about 4.8 GW for the calendar year. About 2.8 GW was installed in the first eight months of 2016, more than all 2015 solar installations. India's solar projects stood at about 21 GW, with about 14 GW under construction and about 7 GW to be auctioned.[82] The country's solar capacity reached 19.7 GW by the end of 2017, making it the third-largest global solar market.[83]

In mid-2018 the Indian power minister RK Singh flagged a tender for a 100GW solar plant at an event in Delhi, while discussing a 10GW tender due to be issued in July that year (at the time, a world record). He also increased the government target for installed renewable energy by 2022 to 227GW.[84]

Solar thermal power[edit]

Solar thermal power plant with a field of heliostats and a central solar power tower.

The installed capacity of commercial solar thermal power plants (non storage type) in India is 227.5 MW with 50 MW in Andhra Pradesh and 177.5 MW in Rajasthan.[85][86] Solar thermal plants with thermal storage are emerging as cheaper (US 6.1 ¢/kWh or Rs 3.97/KWh) and clean load following power plants to supply electricity round the clock,[87][88] working as dispatchable generation.[89] Proper mix of solar thermal (thermal storage type) and solar PV can fully match the load fluctuations without the need of costly battery storage.[90][91]

The existing solar thermal power plants (non-storage type) in India, which are generating costly intermittent power on daily basis, can be converted into storage type solar thermal plants to generate 3 to 4 times more baseload power at cheaper cost and not depend on government subsidies.[92]

Hybrid solar plants[edit]

Solar power, generated mainly during the daytime in the non-monsoon period, complements wind which generate power during the monsoon months in India.[93] Solar panels can be located in the space between the towers of wind-power plants.[94] It also complements hydroelectricity, generated primarily during India's monsoon months. Solar-power plants can be installed near existing hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity, utilizing the existing power transmission infrastructure and storing the surplus secondary power generated by the solar PV plants.[95][96]

During the daytime, the additional auxiliary power consumption of a solar thermal storage power plant is nearly 10% of its rated capacity for the process of extracting solar energy in the form of thermal energy.[89] This auxiliary power requirement can be made available from cheaper solar PV plant by envisaging hybrid solar plant with a mix of solar thermal and solar PV plants at a site. Also to optimise the cost of power, generation can be from the cheaper solar PV plant (33% generation) during the daylight whereas the rest of the time in a day is from the solar thermal storage plant (67% generation from Solar power tower and parabolic trough types) for meeting 24 hours baseload power.[97] When solar thermal storage plant is forced to idle due to lack of sunlight locally during cloudy days in monsoon season, it is also possible to consume (similar to a lesser efficient, huge capacity and low cost battery storage system) the cheap excess grid power when the grid frequency is above 50 hz for heating the hot molten salt to higher temperature for converting stored thermal energy in to electricity during the peak demand hours when the electricity sale price is profitable.[98][99]

Solar heating[edit]

Array of parabolic troughs.

Generating hot water or air or steam using concentrated solar reflectors, is increasing rapidly. Presently concentrated solar thermal installation base for heating applications is about 20 MWth in India and expected to grow rapidly.[100][101] Cogeneration of steam and power round the clock is also feasible with solar thermal CHP plants with storage capacity.

Bengaluru has the largest deployment of roof-top solar water heaters in India, generating an energy equivalent of 200 MW.[102] It is India's first city to provide a rebate of 50 (70¢ US) on monthly electricity bills for residents using roof-top thermal systems,[103] which are now mandatory in all new structures. Pune has also made solar water heaters mandatory in new buildings.[104] Photovoltaic thermal (PVT) panels produce simultaneously the required warm water/air along with electricity under sunlight.[105]

Rural electrification[edit]

The lack of an electricity infrastructure is a hurdle to rural India's development. India's power grid is under-developed, with large groups of people still living off the grid.[106] In 2004, about 80,000 of the nation's villages still did not have electricity; of them, 18,000 could not be electrified by extending the conventional grid. A target of electrifying 5,000 such villages was set for the 2002–2007 Five-Year Plan. By 2004 more than 2,700 villages and hamlets were electrified, primarily with solar photovoltaic systems.[26] The development of inexpensive solar technology is considered a potential alternative, providing an electricity infrastructure consisting of a network of local-grid clusters with distributed electricity generation.[107] It could bypass (or relieve) expensive, long-distance, centralized power-delivery systems, bringing inexpensive electricity to large groups of people. In Rajasthan during FY2016-17, 91 villages have been electrified with a solar standalone system and over 6,200 households have received a 100W solar home-lighting system.[citation needed]

India has sold or distributed about 1.2 million solar home-lighting systems and 3.2 million solar lanterns, and has been ranked the top Asian market for solar off-grid products.[108][109][110][111]

Lamps and lighting[edit]

By 2012, a total of 4,600,000 solar lanterns and 861,654 solar-powered home lights were installed. Typically replacing kerosene lamps, they can be purchased for the cost of a few months' worth of kerosene with a small loan. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is offering a 30- to 40-percent subsidy of the cost of lanterns, home lights and small systems (up to 210 Wp).[112] Twenty million solar lamps are expected by 2022.[113]

Agricultural support[edit]

Solar photovoltaic water-pumping systems are used for irrigation and drinking water.[114] Most pumps are fitted with a 200–3,000 W (0.27–4.02 hp) motor powered with a 1,800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 litres (37,000 US gal) of water per day from a total hydraulic head of 10 m (33 ft). By 30 September 2006 a total of 7,068 solar photovoltaic water pumping systems were installed,[107] and 7,771 were installed by March 2012.[115] During hot sunny daytime when the water needs are more for watering the fields, solar pumps performance can be improved by maintaining pumped water flowing/sliding over the solar panels to keep them cooler and clean.[116] Solar driers are used to dry harvests for storage.[117] Low cost solar powered bicycles are also available to ply between fields and village for agricultural activity, etc.[118]

Rainwater harvesting[edit]

In addition to solar energy, rainwater is a major renewable resource of any area. In India, large areas are being covered by solar PV panels every year. Solar panels can also be used for harvesting most of the rainwater falling on them and drinking-quality water, free from bacteria and suspended matter, can be generated by simple filtration and disinfection processes, as rainwater is very low in salinity.[119][120] Good quality water resources, closer to populated areas, are becoming a scarcity and increasingly costly for consumers. Exploitation of rainwater for value-added products like bottled drinking water makes solar PV power plants profitable even in high rainfall and cloudy areas by the increased income from drinking water generation.[121]

Refrigeration and air conditioning[edit]

Many solar panels arranged horizontally at ground level
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 places like India; there is less deterioration in conversion efficiency with increased ambient temperature, and no partial shading effect. These factors enhance the performance and reliability (fire safety) of thin-film panels.[122][123][124] Maximum solar-electricity generation during the hot hours of the day can be used for meeting residential air-conditioning requirements regardless of other load requirements, such as refrigeration, lighting, cooking and water pumping. Power generation of photovoltaic modules can be increased by 17 to 20 percent by equipping them with a tracking system.[125][126]

Residential electricity consumers who are paying higher slab rates more than 5 (7.0¢ US) 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.[127] Hence 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 daytime is complementary 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.[128] There is no need of any permission from Discoms similar to DG power sets installation. Cheaper discarded batteries of electric vehicle can also be used economically to store the excess solar power generated in the daylight.[129]

Grid stabilisation[edit]

Solar-power plants equipped with battery-storage systems where net energy metering is used can feed stored electricity into the power grid when its frequency is below the rated parameter (50 Hz) and draw excess power from the grid when its frequency is above the rated parameter.[130] Excursions above and below the rated grid frequency occur about 100 times daily.[131][132] The solar-plant owner would receive nearly double the price for electricity sent into the grid compared to that consumed from the grid if a frequency-based tariff is offered to rooftop solar plants or plants dedicated to a distribution substation.[133][134] A power-purchase agreement (PPA) is not needed for solar plants with a battery storage system to serve ancillary-service operations and transmit generated electricity for captive consumption using an open-access facility.[135][136] Battery storage is popular in India, with more than 10 million households using battery backup during load shedding.[137] Battery storage systems are also used to improve the power factor.[138] Solar PV or wind paired with four-hour battery storage systems is already cost competitive, without subsidy, as a source of dispatchable generation compared with new coal and new gas plants in India”.[139]

Battery storage is also used economically to reduce daily/monthly peak power demand for minimising the monthly demand charges from the utility to the commercial and industrial establishments.[140] Construction power tariffs are very high in India.[141] Construction power needs of long gestation mega projects can be economically met by installing solar PV plants for permanent service in the project premises with or without battery storage for minimising use of Standby generator sets or costly grid power.[142]

Challenges and opportunities[edit]

The land is scarce in India, and per-capita land availability is low[citation needed]. Dedication of land for the installation of solar arrays must compete with other needs. The amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants is about 1 km2 (250 acres) for every 40–60 MW generated. One alternative is to use the water-surface area on canals, lakes, reservoirs, farm ponds and the sea for large solar-power plants.[143][144][145] These water bodies can also provide water to clean the solar panels.[146] Highways and railways may also avoid the cost of land nearer to load centres, minimising transmission-line costs by having solar plants about 10 meters above the roads or rail tracks.[147] Solar power generated by road areas may also be used for in-motion charging of electric vehicles, reducing fuel costs.[148] Highways would avoid damage from rain and summer heat, increasing comfort for commuters.[149][150][151]

The architecture best suited to most of India would be a set of rooftop power-generation systems connected via a local grid.[152] Such an infrastructure, which does not have the economy of scale of mass, utility-scale solar-panel deployment, needs a lower deployment price to attract individuals and family-sized households. Photovoltaics are projected to continue their cost reductions, becoming able to compete with fossil fuels.[153][154]

Greenpeace[26][155][156] recommends that India adopt a policy of developing solar power as a dominant component of its renewable-energy mix, since its identity as a densely-populated country[157] in the tropical belt[158][159] of the subcontinent has an ideal combination of high insolation[158] and a large potential consumer base.[160][161][162] In one scenario[156] India could make renewable resources the backbone of its economy by 2030, curtailing carbon emissions without compromising its economic-growth potential.[163] A study 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 and 76 GW by 2024.[164]

During the 2015-16 fiscal year NTPC, with 110 MW solar power installations, generated 160.8 million kWh at a capacity utilisation of 16.64 percent (1,458 kWh per kW)—more than 20 percent below the claimed norms of the solar-power industry.[63]

It is considered prudent to encourage solar-plant installations up to a threshold (such as 7,000 MW) by offering incentives.[165] Otherwise, substandard equipment with overrated nameplate capacity may tarnish the industry.[166][167] The purchaser, transmission agency and financial institution should require capacity utilisation and long-term performance guarantees for the equipment backed by insurance coverage in the event that the original equipment manufacturer ceases to exist.[168][169][170] Alarmed by the low quality of equipment, India issued draft quality guide lines in May 2017 to be followed by the solar plant equipment suppliers conforming to Indian standards.[171][172][173]

Government support[edit]

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Solar radiation resource assessment stations in India

Fifty-one solar radiation resource assessment stations 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) to create a solar atlas. In June 2015, India began a 40 crore (US$5.6 million) project to measure solar radiation with a spatial resolution of 3 by 3 kilometres (1.9 mi × 1.9 mi). This solar-radiation measuring network will provide the basis for the Indian solar-radiation atlas. According to National Institute of Wind Energy officials, the Solar Radiation Resource Assessment wing (121 ground stations) would measure solar radiation's three parameters—Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) and Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI)—to accurately measure a region's solar radiation.[174][175]

The Indian government is promoting solar energy. It announced an allocation of 1,000 crore (US$140 million) for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and a clean-energy fund for the 2010-11 fiscal year, an increase of 380 crore (US$53 million) from the previous budget. The budget encouraged private solar companies by reducing the import duty on solar panels by five percent. This is expected to reduce the cost of a rooftop solar-panel installation by 15 to 20 percent.

Solar PV tariff[edit]

Bar graph
Price of silicon solar cells 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. While the more limited fossil fuels are used, the more expensive they become.[176][177]

The average bid in reverse auctions in April 2017 is 3.15 (4.4¢ US) per kWh, compared with 12.16 (17¢ US) per kWh in 2010, which is around 73% drop over the time window.[178][179][180] The current prices of solar PV electricity is around 18% lower than the average price for electricity generated by coal-fired plants.[8] Competitive reverse auctions, falling panel and component prices, the introduction of solar parks, lower borrowing costs and large power companies have contributed to the fall in prices. The cost of solar PV power in India, China, Brazil and 55 other emerging markets fell to about one-third of its 2010 price, making solar the cheapest form of renewable energy and cheaper than power generated from fossil fuels such as coal and gas.[181]

The levelized cost of solar PV electricity fell below 1.77¢ US per kWh in November 2017, cheaper than fuel cost of any pit head coal-based power plants in India.[182][183] The intermittent / non-dispatchable solar PV at the prevailing low tariffs clubbed with Pumped-heat electricity storage can offer cheapest dispatchable power round the clock on demand.

The Indian government has reduced the solar PV power purchase price from the maximum allowed 4.43 (6.2¢ US) per KWh to 4.00 (5.6¢ US) per KWh, reflecting the steep fall in cost of solar power-generation equipment.[184][185][186] The applicable tariff is offered after applying viability gap funding (VGF) or accelerated depreciation (AD) incentives.[187][188]

Solar PV generation cost fell to 2.97 (4.1¢ US) per kWh for the 750 MW Rewa Ultra Mega Solar power project, India's lowest electricity-generation cost.[189][190] Solar panel prices are lower than those of mirrors by unit area.[114][191]

In an auction of 250 MW capacity of the second phase in Bhadla solar park, South Africa's Phelan Energy Group and Avaada Power were awarded 50 MW and 100 MW of capacity respectively in May 2017 at 2.62 (3.6¢ US) per kilowatt hour.[192] The tariff is also lower than NTPC's average coal power tariff of 3.20 per kilowatt hour. SBG Cleantech, a consortium of Softbank Group, Airtel and Foxconn, was awarded the remaining 100 MW capacity at a rate of 2.63 (3.7¢ US) per kWh.[193][194] Few days later in a second auction for another 500 MW at the same park, solar tariff has further fallen to 2.44 (3.4¢ US) per kilowatt hour which are the lowest tariffs for any solar power project in India.[195] These tariffs are lower than traded prices for day time in non-monsoon period in IEX and also for meeting peak loads on daily basis by using cheaper solar PV power in pumped-storage hydroelectricity stations indicating there is no need of any power purchase agreements and any incentives for the solar PV power plants in India.[196][197][56] Solar PV power plant developers are forecasting that solar power tariff would drop to 1.5 (2.1¢ US) /unit in near future.[198][199]

The lowest solar tariff in May 2018 is Rs 2.71/kWh (without incentives) which is less than the tariff of Badla solar park (2.44 (3.4¢ US) per kWh with VGF incentive) after the clarification that any additional taxes are pass through cost with hike in the tariff.[200][201] In early July 2018 bids, the lowest solar PV tariff has touched 2.44 (3.4¢ US) per kWh without VGF incentive.[202][203] The tariff for roof top installations are also falling with the recent offer of 3.64 (5.1¢ US) with 100% locally made components.[204]

Incentives[edit]

Colour-coded world map
Grid parity for solar PV systems around the world[205]
  Reached grid-parity before 2014
  Reached grid-parity after 2014
  Reached grid-parity after 2016
  U.S. states poised to reach grid-parity soon

At the end of July 2015, the chief incentives were:

  1. Viability Gap Funding: Under the reverse bidding process, bidders who need least viability gap funding at the reference tariff (RS 4.93 per unit in 2016) is selected.[206]. Funding was Rs 1 Crore/MW for open projects on average in 2016.
  2. Accelerated depreciation: For profit-making enterprises installing rooftop solar systems, 40 percent of the total investment could be claimed as depreciation in the first year (decreasing taxes).
  3. To protect the local solar panel manufacturers, 25% safe guard duty is imposed for two years period from August 2018 on the imports from China & Malaysia who are suspected of dumping solar panels in to India.[207]
  4. Capital subsidies were applicable to rooftop solar-power plants up to a maximum of 500 kW. The 30-percent subsidy was reduced to 15 percent.
  5. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): Tradeable certificates providing financial incentives for every unit of green power generated.[208]
  6. Net metering incentives depend on whether a net meter is installed and the utility's incentive policy. If so, financial incentives are available for the power generated.[209]
  7. Assured Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): The power-distribution and -purchase companies owned by state and central governments guarantee the purchase of solar PV power when produced only during daylight. The PPAs offer fair market determined tariff for the solar power which is a secondary power or negative load and an intermittent energy source on a daily basis.
  8. Interstate transmission system (ISTS) charges and losses are not levied during the period of PPA for the projects commissioned before 31 March 2022.[210]
  9. Additional incentives are offered to roof top solar power plants both from central and various state governments.[211]

Solar-panel manufacturing[edit]

The 2018 manufacturing capacity of solar cells and solar modules in India was 1,590 MW and 5,620 MW, respectively.[212] Except for crystalline silicon wafers or cadmium telluride photovoltaics or Float-zone silicon, nearly 80 percent of solar-panel weight is flat glass.[213] One hundred to 150 tons of flat glass is used to manufacture a one-MW solar panel. Low-iron flat or float glass is manufactured from soda ash and iron-free silica. Soda-ash manufacturing from common salt is an energy-intensive process if it is not extracted from soda lakes or glasswort cultivation in alkali soil. To increase installation of photovoltaic solar-power plants, the production of flat glass and its raw materials must expand commensurately to eliminate supply constraints or future imports.[214]

For utility scale solar projects, top solar module suppliers in 2016-17 were: Trina Solar, JA Solar, Canadian Solar, Risen, Hanwha and GCL Poly.[215] For rooftop solar projects, international companies with the largest market share in the Indian market were: Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Renesola, REC Solar and Jinko Solar.[216] Similarly, top Indian suppliers were: Vikram Solar, Waaree, Adani, Emmvee and Jakson.[217]

See also[edit]

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