One of the perennial problems facing the renewable energy sector in India is the paucity of land to develop solar and wind projects. With the worlds’ second-highest population getting unencumbered, land is a difficult proposition for both its infrastructure and industrial sectors. One of the biggest reasons for the delay in the development of solar projects is the availability of land.

solar in desert

Solar parks are a unique concept to India where the land and associated infrastructure is developed in a large park where solar developers can set up their plants. However, given India’s ambition to reach 40% of its overall capacity from the power source to come from RE by 2030, hundreds of gigawatts of wind and solar projects will have to be built over the next decade. Finding land will become tougher and costlier. While all the components of solar projects in recent times have been falling, the cost of land has been increasing as landowners have opportunistically increased the prices of prize land where solar insolation is high and which is near transmission substations.

To solve this land problem, the Indian government is looking at the vast tracts of land near its border with Pakistan to develop massive solar projects. Gujarat and Rajasthan which are the two states bordering Pakistan have thousands of acres of useless land which not only receive high solar insolation but also high winds. This makes them ideal for developing utility-scale solar and wind projects in these areas. The government of India plans to develop almost 30 GW of RE capacity in Gujarat and 20 GW in Rajasthan. Note massive solar power plants and parks are already being developed in the desert state of Rajasthan because of the availability of huge land banks of non-agricultural land in the state which is also blessed with high radiation throughout the year.

Note the government is also moving ahead with developing massive solar power plants in the northern part of the country in the barren areas of Ladakh which recently became a union territory. Besides developing RE capacity, the government also wants to develop these border regions economically which would help meet its strategic objective of weening away the people in these areas from the nefarious designs of its neighbors who may want to foment trouble amongst the locals using the lack of economic opportunities.

India is facing an increasing demand for power thanks to its rising population and consumerism. As such, the government is trying very hard to make the country energy independent. It has set an ambitious renewable energy installation target that will not only reduce the country’s dependence upon grid power but also help to conserve the environment. But, despite huge government support and a large unemployed working force, the country missed the clean energy train. This was because India lacked the sophisticated manufacturing facilities and failed to combat China’s rising global footprint.

We had hoped that the country was on time to catch the EV train as India is poised to become one of the largest EV markets in the world. The government devised meaningful targets and policies in time, to support mass EV adoption in the country. This coupled with rising air pollution levels, especially in leading Indian cities acted as strong tailwinds for EVs in India. However, there is some bad news on the radar. Due to lack of demand, state-run Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) is planning to curb the sourcing of EVs to less than a third of the 10,000 cars it had originally tendered. EESL had entered into an EV sourcing contract with Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra in September 2017. These EVs were to be used by the government and its agencies, who use approximately 5,00,000 cars in all.

Maruti-Suzuki-Wagon-R-EV

Out of this, only 1500 EVs have been supplied so far, and EESL plans to place a final order of around 3,000 vehicles by March 2020. The original tender had a clause that while 10,000 units were the total allocation, vendors will only manufacture after an increase in demand. Other than a slowdown in passenger vehicle sales, policy changes in Telangana practically reversed the momentum gained so far in the Indian clean energy sector. Other than these, senior government officials refused to use the EVs citing poor performance and low mileage. Under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, the government is targeting six million electric and hybrid vehicles in India by 2020. EESL plans to set up more than 1,000 charging stations in India to support these cars.

“I don’t think this EV procurement plan will continue going forward and maybe after March 2020, EESL will close the tender. In the tender it was mentioned that while 10,000 units was the overall allocation, vendors will only manufacture after a demand for the same was raised,” said a person aware of EESL’s strategy.

Source: Live Mint

#SolarForACause

We, at Greenworldinvestor, have always promoted stories where Solar has been used for a social cause. With the rising popularity of solar technology, easy accessibility, and eco-friendly nature, solar has been springing up at many places around. People are looking at installing a solar system, not only because of its environment-friendly nature but also for its improving prices. Rising electricity costs have also acted as a strong tailwind for solar.

Another story, where solar energy will be used to uplift the society has come from Gujarat. The once trailblazer of solar energy has come up with yet another initiative to promote solar power in the state. After the successful launch of SKY solar scheme for farmers, Wind-Solar Hybrid Power Policy and solar power generation schemes for households with terraces, the Gujrat government now looks upon the slum areas for promoting solar. The solar installation at the slum area will not only generate free electricity for the slum dwellers but also help them earn an extra buck. Yes, the government will also pay them for the surplus power that they generate.

solar-india-village1

The government is planning to set up flexible solar panel domes in slums and use empty spaces in these areas to generate electricity. The government will bear the major portion of the installation cost. The slum dwellers will get free access to electricity and also money from the government for the extra power supplied. Both individual, as well as community solar power generation options, will be available. The government is planning to do a pilot run in the slum areas of major cities. If successful, the model could pave the way for a large scale solar adoption and be introduced to the masses. The solar technology has already reached the rural parts of the world in the form of solar light, solar mobile phone chargers and microgrids, especially in areas that are not grid connected. These new installations in the slum areas will not only raise the installation numbers but also prove to be a boon for the slum dwellers who hardly have any access to electricity, let alone free. These installations will go a long way in improving the lifestyles of the individuals by helping them to work and read even when it’s dark.

“The rooftop solar power generation facility is for well-off citizens who have concrete houses with terraces. The state government has decided to extend this facility to slum dwellers as well. The Gujarat government will soon announce a new scheme for slum dwellers who can produce the solar power for their need and can earn revenue by selling surplus power.” a top government official said.

Source: TOI

In 2018, a total of 13.4 GW of clean power was purchased by companies globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This was a record amount of clean power sourced through PPAs, breaking the previous record set in 2017. Out of the total power purchased, the U.S. was the single largest market with 8.5 GW deployed, followed by India, whose corporate PPA market added 1.3 GW.

One of the main reasons behind this rapid growth in the corporate renewable energy sector in India was sustainability. Over the last few years, clean energy has been favorably perceived by a large number of corporates, and they have already begun making tangible progress in adopting the same. Irrespective of whether or not they are signatories of global movements such as RE100, major corporates across the country, are today aiming for increased dependence on renewable energy, ranging from 50%-100%.

Furthermore, as corporates acknowledge that their demands for renewable energy will only increase with time, they have the potential to be important contributors in driving investment in renewable energy, and ultimately contribute to the global climate objectives.

In addition to sustainability, economics has emerged as another key factor responsible for corporates transitioning to renewable energy. Taking into consideration that energy is among the top operating expenses for a large number of corporates, an increasing number of companies have now turned to clean energy, on account of its comparatively low cost. Depending on the location, renewable energy can be sourced at a 15% to 40% discount to industrial grid tariffs in India. Reduction in the cost of renewable energy has made it competitive with thermal generation in many geographies, and in fact, the former has reached grid parity a year or two ago, not only in India but other countries as well. As a result, today, solar and wind projects are now bid at well below the average cost of coal power procured by the national power generator, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

Community Solar

Solar, in particular, has emerged as a front-runner for the adoption of renewable energy in India, given that it is economical, scalable, and location-agnostic, across the country, and has captured the lion’s share of corporate renewable procurement volumes.

Also, read about These 10 Largest Companies in the World Are Betting Big on Solar

In cases of large corporates, the adoption of solar energy can take place in two forms:

Rooftop Solar Plants

Here the solar capacity is deployed on-site, and supply and demand are managed through net metering. This has found favor among an increasing number of corporates, as a result of the introduction of the OPEX model, which has allowed them to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without any upfront investment, thus minimizing the risks involved. Under this model, the developer undertakes the installation and maintenance of the plant, and the corporate only have to pay per unit of consumption.

In the case of rooftop solar plants, as power is generated and consumed at source, it still begs the question, what happens to power generated during weekends, or public holidays when it will not be used. This is where net metering has come into play, wherein it allows consumers to feed the surplus power to the grid, and in turn, receive credit on their electricity bill. As the rooftop solar power plant segment continues to grow, many states have created net metering policies, albeit, with arbitrary constraints and limits. In Tamil Nadu, for example, net metering is not allowed for HT consumers, and in Maharashtra, there is an artificial capacity constraint of 1 MWp.

However, given that a majority of corporates, who will adopt renewable energy through rooftop solar power plants, have large power consumption requirements, their available space rooftop might be limited. Hence, they cannot install large plants, thereby limiting their sustainability target to go 100% renewables. Even in the case of buildings with car parks on which solar power plants can be mounted, or glass facades which can be used, there will still not be enough solar power generated to meet the massive energy requirements of large corporations. Depending on a facility’s size and power consumption, the rooftop can typically supply only 10%-15% of the demand of an industrial facility, and even lower values for a commercial building, hospital or data center.  

Private Solar Farms

In order to meet the challenge of limited space, large scale grid connected open-access solar farms is a viable solution for corporates to go 100% solar. Under this model, an off-site project is set up and under the open access mechanism, the public grid is employed to wheel power to corporate buyers. Through this model, corporates can meet upwards of 50-80% of their facility’s power consumption. Open access solar farms, however, is still dependent on state-wise open access charges and regulations. Karnataka stood out as the single largest market for open access renewables in 2018 due to the state’s favorable solar policy, which was led by a complete waiver of grid charges for wheeling of power for 10 years. However, this has not been extended or replicated in any other state.

Such regulation changes have led to a growing corporate interest in market-led ‘group captive’ projects. Under this model, they invest in a part of the equity required for the special purpose vehicle (SPV). Through the group captive model, corporates who do not wish to invest 100 percent of the equity, can enjoy the lowest landed cost of power, because it is exempted from particular grid charges and cross-subsidy surcharges. Taking this into consideration, customers can enjoy savings of close to 30% as compared to grid tariffs. While there have been risks associated with the group captive model, new amendments to the Electricity Act, clearly define Group Captive, and encourage the setup of projects which are fully compliant with the law.

As seen, there are several business models making it feasible for corporates to meet their RE 100 targets. To cite an example, Adobe’s Bengaluru campus is 100% power by solar, purchased from Cleanmax Solar’s private solar farm in Karnataka at 38.2% lesser unit cost than prevailing grid power tariffs and has saved approximately INR 10.9 million annually on their electricity bill. 

In a country like India, which is blessed with abundant sunlight, it is easy to turn this into a valuable asset for corporations to choose the model which best suits them. Along with the growing interest in corporate sustainability, and MNCs becoming increasingly conscious about on energy efficiency and their carbon footprint and with a combination of sourcing solar and wind power in India, there is much scope for them to go cent percent renewable.

About the author: This article is written by Vikram Salvekar, who is passionate about clean and green energy.

Leading Solar States in India – 2018

India’s states have been adopting solar power at a fast pace, with Karnataka being the leader at more 5300 MW of solar capacity. But there is a wide gap between the top and the last state on the list at 5,328 MW and just 845 MW respectively. Let us see how the different states of India performed on solar installations during the year.

The states’ ranking along with their total installed solar capacities at the end of 2018 and unique characteristic is given below.

10. Punjab

Total Solar Capacity – 845 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 6.3% of total installed capacity. The state issued tenders worth 90 kW for solar rooftop project to be installed on the premises of Patiala Urban Planning And Development Authority. Punjab is also installing solar pumps across the state under the solar hydro pumping project. MNRE is planning to install 10 lakh solar pumps in the country by 2020-2021.

solar water pump

9. Uttar Pradesh

Total Solar Capacity -875 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 3.5% of total installed capacity. The state government announced a subsidy of Rs 15,000 per kW for the development of rooftop solar projects which will be provided to residential consumers. The state government has set a target of 10,700 MW for solar power, including 4,300 MW from rooftop solar projects, by 2022.

8. Maharashtra

Total Solar Capacity – 1,311 MW

Solar energy now accounts for just 3% of total installed capacity.  The state is strengthening its policy of providing financial assistance for using solar energy in cottage and micro industries.

7. Madhya Pradesh

Total Solar Capacity – 1,526 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 7% of total installed capacity. The state deploys an innovative decentralized solar policy. It also hosts the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar plant.

6.  Gujarat

Total Solar Capacity – 1,607 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 5% of total installed capacity. Gujarat is home to the very famous Charanka Solar Park. Very recently, the airport of Ahmedabad commissioned 700 kW rooftop solar plant.

File photo of workers cleaning photovoltaic panels inside a solar power plant in Gujarat

5.  Tamil Nadu

Total Solar Capacity – 2,055 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 6.7% of total installed capacity. According to Tamil Nadu’s solar energy vision, solar energy will be the major contributor to a sustainable energy future for the state. The state is looking at various measures such as establishing a single window system for technical/ financial support, encouraging public-private partnerships and JVs to mobilize investments, facilitate ease of doing business in solar, etc.

4. Andhra Pradesh

Total Solar Capacity – 2,29 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 12% of total installed capacity. The state has set an installation target of 5 GW of solar energy capacity over the next five years, as per new Solar Policy 2018.

3. Rajasthan

Total Solar Capacity – 3,081 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 14% of total installed capacity. The state aims to install 3,780 MW of solar capacity by April 2019 and increase solar’s share to 17% by 2021.

2. Telangana

Total Solar Capacity – 3,501 MW

Solar energy now accounts for 22% of total installed capacity. In a bid to further encourage solar energy, Karimnagar, Telengana’s fastest growing city has made it mandatory for commercial establishments, houses, apartments and community halls to install solar panels on rooftops if their built-up area is more than 2700 square feet.

1. Karnataka

Total Solar Capacity – 5,328 MW

Karnataka tops the list adding 5 GW of renewable energy capacity in 2018. Solar now accounts for almost 20% of total installed capacity. The state has upwardly revised its solar installation target to 6000 MW by March 2021 out of which 40% will come from rooftop solar installations. The solar policy in Karnataka encourages public-private participation in this sector, solar rooftop generation and decentralized generation where the grid is inaccessible.  Also, read how did Karnataka become the top solar state in India.

Data Source: Economic Times

Vivint Solar, a leading rooftop solar player in the US broke all records reaching 1 GW rooftop installation mark in the third quarter. The company is the largest and most experienced residential solar provider in California. Vivint Solar experienced a boost from strong Q3 and solid growth in the Californian market. California ranks number one in the US for solar with over 22 GW solar capacity installed.

Vivint Solar announced a new fixed-rate solar lease plan which would allow new customers to install solar panels for no down payment. Customers would lease the solar panels from Vivint Solar for 20 years and pay a fixed monthly payment over the contract period. The company is also planning to introduce new financing options to attract more California homeowners. It also has plans to expand its footprints to other states in the US.

In sharp contrast, AusNet a network operator in Australia is charging hefty installation fees in hundreds of dollars for rooftop solar installations in Victoria. Victoria has around 1.4 GW of rooftop solar, on about 300,000 homes. A few years ago, another Australian operator South Australia Power Network had put a $100 fee but withdrew amidst public criticism.

Rooftop solar

Read more about Rooftop Solar Components.

Solar has become too mainstream all over the world. Falling cost and improving efficiencies have led to widespread adoption of solar technology. India targets to install 40 GW of rooftop solar by 2022. The country has a huge potential in the form of a large number of urban buildings in the country. Rooftop solar also negates the usage of real estate which is too expensive in the country. Countries worldwide are looking at launching policies which will better their renewable energy target and reduce their carbon footprints.

Goa, India’s smallest state has recently launched an online single window clearance portal which will allow easy clearances for rooftop solar projects adding more convenience for the consumers. This is a good step and should reduce doubts and questions in the minds of the common people. More states should adopt this. The country had also launched e-Solar in India back in 2016.