An outlook on why solar energy sector has upper hand in India
The central government has set an ambitious target of generating 175 GW of electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2022, out of which 100 GW is to be generated from solar power alone, followed by 60 GW from wind energy. Currently, India’s total installed power generation capacity is a little over 300 GW. About 15 per cent of this electricity is derived from renewable sources of energy, which primarily include solar energy, wind energy, biomass and small hydel projects. Ideally, from the point of view of sustainability in the long run, this figure should be at least 50 per cent, said Hartek Singh, CMD, Hartek Power. “The government is aiming for it and much of this growth in the renewable energy domain will be powered by solar energy.”
The reason is not hard to find, believes Hartek Singh. He said, “Blessed with abundant sunshine and vast tracts of non-cultivable land to run solar projects in states receiving high irradiation like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, India can virtually become a global solar superpower. Given the favourable policies, the renewed focus of the government on solar energy and the conducive business environment, we can become one much sooner than expected.”
Kunwer Sachdev, Founder and Managing Director, Su-Kam observes that the generation and usage of solar energy has grown exponentially in the past few years in India which is also reflected by the online behaviour of Indian consumers.
He said, “There are three reasons why solar energy sector in India is on the rise – increasing awareness on the benefits of solar power; solar technology is becoming better and cost-effective; and friendly policies and incentives.”
One stop solutionIndia’s power requirement is expected to grow by more than 5 per cent over the next decade, while supply is projected to fall short by 3.6 per cent. According to Anurag Garg, Vice President-Solar Business, Schneider Electric India, “Conventional energy sources are not sufficient to match the ever increasing demand of growing population of the country. Rate of domestic coal production has been comparatively low forcing government to import expensive coal adding to pressure.”
Also there are severe environment and sustainability challenges due to emissions. “The immediate need of the hour is to look for alternate means of energy which is clean, eco-friendly, cost effective and sustainable. In the wake of such a situation, solar power has emerged as the one stop solution to all these challenges,” Garg avers.
Rooftop will be the game-changerWhile India’s total installed solar capacity has grown 16 times in a short span of five years from 0.5 GW in 2011 to 8 GW as of now, the growth in years to come is projected to be even more phenomenal with many big developers vying to set up one large solar project after another. Rooftop solar also has a huge potential that is waiting to be tapped. “In pursuit of the 40-GW rooftop target, it will soon become mandatory for all government and new residential buildings across the country to install rooftop projects,” anticipates Hartek Singh.
Solar products are ‘smart’The solar technology is becoming ‘smart’ and cost-effective. A lot of innovations are taking place in solar energy sector in India. One can now find solar products from 30 W to 100 kW in Indian market. Both big brands and local companies are coming up with various models of solar inverters, solar powered lights and other devices for solar energy generation which are technologically superior and more efficient than their predecessors. For example, Su-Kam is launching solar inverters that can run on grid, battery, solar energy and also feed the surplus back to the grid. “All our solar products are ‘smart’ i.e. they can be monitored by downloading an app on your smartphone – you can control your solar power system from anywhere in the world. So Indian consumers now have the opportunity to choose a solar system based on their need,” claims Sachdev.
Su-Kam has recently installed over 1 lac units of solar DC systems in many rural areas. This system consists of a solar charge controller, battery, a small solar panel and DC powered LED lights, fans, TV and mobile charging port. “If you install this system you are no longer dependent on the grid supply. This is very useful for a country like India where some places have not even been connected to the grid ever,” assures Sachdev.
Land is no more an ‘issue’!India is a tropical country and due to its geographical location, it receives solar radiation almost throughout the year, which amounts to 3,000 hours of sunshine. This is equal to more than 5,000 trillion kWh. Almost all parts of India receive 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per square metres. In the recent past, the costs of solar projects have come down significantly making it one of the cheapest long term sources of power available in India. The potential to set up solar power across the country and at an attractive cost makes solar the power of choice. However, Sanjeev Aggarwal, Founder and CEO, Amplus Solar expressed his cautious view by saying, “It is important to consider the large land requirement and the transmission network. The distributed generation and in particular rooftop solar has to be promoted to the fullest extent.”
On the contrary, Rahul Shah, Chief Executive Officer, Tata Power Renewable Energy said, “A floating solar power plant can help address the problem of land availability in India. This can be installed on large still-water bodies like lakes, dams, canals and ponds to generate power. Not only does this relieve pressure on land resources, but generation is higher due to lower temperatures over the water.” Tata Power has already achieved proof of concept by installing a small sized plant on its lake in Lonavla.
ConclusionSolar energy is going to be big in coming years. The government is targeting 100 GW of solar power by 2022. This has been reflected in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) that envisaged, renewable capacity addition of 18,500 MW out of which 3,800 MW will be from solar capacity sources.
In line with the government’s target, Tata Power finds potential in solar energy. “As the conventional grid connected and rooftop projects continue at its own pace, we also need to look at various innovative technologies to achieve the target for 100 GW of solar,” Shah.
The National Solar Mission (NSM) is a major step forward. It has not just brought solar power in the national focus but has also helped put India on the global radar, in so far as solar opportunities are concerned. However, Shah believes, “The key objective behind the Solar Mission would be achieved only if the framework and necessary industrial base for research, development, manufacturing and harnessing of solar power gets developed in the country to support appropriate growth and cost optimisation for the benefit of the masses in an otherwise less favoured country, in terms of energy resources.”
He adds, “We must always remember, we have only a limited option in terms of commercial sources of energy and solar is one of our best opportunity. We need to work expeditiously on continuation of SIPS initiative and similar other programmes for complete assimilation of technological know-how and for nurturing it to our advantage.”
An outlook on why solar energy sector has upper hand in India