Cover Story

The Sun Shines on Rooftop Solar

After years of neglect, the rooftop solar sector is all set to shine Indian households brighter like never before.

India’s rooftop solar energy capacity has crossed 1.2 GW with 513 MW generation capacities added in the last year itself. Rooftop solar has maintained a 10-12 per cent share of overall solar capacity additions in India. It is expected that around 1.1 GW of rooftop solar capacity will be added in 2017, a projected increase of 75 per cent as compared to 2016, driven by capital subsidies and substantial demand from public sector.

Rooftop solar has already become the fastest-growing renewable power sub-segment in India’s clean energy market. In pursuit of the 2022 rooftop solar target of 40 GW, most of the installations till date have come from schemes for government-based projects. Commercial and industrial installations have gained momentum only in the past two years. This segment is growing rapidly and beginning to realise its potential, thanks largely to increasing cost competitiveness of rooftop solar power against grid power. Residential market is also expected to pick up in the coming years on account of better policy support and lowering of solar capital costs.

Giving an overview of the rooftop solar market in India, Hartek Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Hartek Group said, “Rooftop solar in India has everything going for it—favourable government policies, streamlined processes, an efficient regulatory mechanism and an investor-friendly business environment.”

Rooftop solar industry has also shown incredible growth contributing to raising awareness and reaching grid parity of solar. According to Shailesh Patni, Head (Sales & Marketing), Jyotitech Solar LLP, “Apart from initiative to install on government or new residential buildings, PSUs, and through SECI tenders, the biggest game changer is a net metering scheme for commercial or industrial consumers who have realised to adopt solar installation to meet their 20 to 30 per cent electrical consumption.”

Explaining the current status of rooftop solar industry in India, Naveen Bandaru, Founder and CEO, NMS Solar said, “The 100 GWp solar installation target by the Indian government by 2022 has given tremendous impetus to the solar module manufacturing industry in India. However major PV installations still use Chinese manufactured solar panels. Solar PV installations have crossed 10 GWp in India and we still have a long way to go to reach our milestone.”

Demand drivers
According to Uday Doshi, Founder, Excelsior Engineering Solutions, “Falling module prices and a surge in completed reference projects has diminished the apprehensions customers previously had on the effectiveness of rooftop solar and its benefits. A spike in projects on educational buildings, charitable trusts, and religious organisations will be seen with various companies scrambling to complete their quota of projects under the government’s subsidy model.”

The growing demand for rooftop projects will bring down the cost of solar panels, making rooftop financially more viable, claims Hartek. He adds, “With leading global solar panel manufacturers keen to set up base here under the ‘Make in India’ campaign and domestic manufacturers heavily investing in R&D to come up with new low-cost materials and mechanisms for solar panels, these panels will become increasingly affordable. As the industry introduces more and more cost-effective solar PV technologies, off-grid solar opportunities are also poised to grow proportionately.”

Experts believe that more awareness among consumers on what rooftop solar holds for them is one of the key areas that need attention. “Net metering offers the biggest opportunity as well as biggest challenge for the rooftop solar industry as these policies are not being implemented at the ground level. Delays in approvals and other procedural delays affect the timeliness of these projects,” Hartek points out.

Turnaround times of rooftop projects are expected to reduce drastically. Companies will offer modular solutions rather than location specific requirements, thereby reducing the overall design and engineering requirements. However this could have major drawbacks in the long run, opines Doshi.

He adds, “DISCOMs are expected to be a lot more efficient in processing, sanctioning, testing and clearing paper work related to net metering implementation. The sheer rise in volume of projects has enabled DISCOM officials to weed out bottlenecks that used to slow down the liasioning.”

He also pointed out that cross platform training and orientations have enabled DISCOMS to better guide its customers. “Considering the rate at which the rooftop industry is growing, adequate training of manpower is essential,” observes Hartek.

As far as domestic solar PV module manufacturing is concerned, MNRE’s data shows 4307.55 MW of operational capacity in India as on June 2016. However, Shailesh from Jyotitech reveals, “The local PV module manufactures is having a good time but with multiple challenges like competition from Chinese modules dumped in India which are available at 20 per cent less price, continuous fall of module prices and increase of solar cells price from Chinese or Taiwanese suppliers.”

He adds, “Make in India is possible only when the raw materials required to manufacture solar modules, mainly solar cells of 5-6 GW, is produced in India locally. Until then, we will be highly dependent on imports.”

Rooftop segment target is at 40 GWp but there has been little headway in this direction, informs Bandaru. However, he adds, “Every day the enquiries and interest of end consumer is increasing which is good. We at NMS Solar, part of Novae Manufacturing Solutions Pvt Ltd, have focussed our attention in this segment.”

A large number of new entrants will be part of the rooftop solar dais. Giving a wider horizon for the customer to choose from, though the survival of such entities is doubtful, Doshi cautioned.

Few key players
Taking its rooftop solar business division to the next level to tap the huge opportunities brought by the rapidly growing market for rooftop photovoltaic plants, Hartek Group recently launched Hartek Solar Pvt Ltd. Having previously commissioned 13.75-MW rooftop solar projects under Hartek Power in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab and Chandigarh, the rooftop solar business vertical of the Hartek Group has been rated among the notable rooftop solar installers in India with a 2 per cent market share by Mercom Capital Group.

Jyotitech Solar is having 30 MW per annum capacity with state-of-the-art module manufacturing facility at Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra which is expected to be expanded to 100 MW in the times to come to cater to customers beyond Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. “We see immense potential for further growth given the ambitious plans of increase in solar PV installations and reduced tariff per kwh,” informs Shailesh. Jyotitech Solar foresees a tremendous growth to its manufacturing business due to its quality and competitive pricing, satisfied customer base.

Jyotitech Solar intends to capitalise on the emerging trends in rooftop solar business by providing complete rooftop solutions in 5 kw to 1,000 kw space for commercial spaces and industries.

Located in Navi Mumbai, NMS Solar specialises in rooftop solar installations and most of its executed projects are in Maharashtra. Few of their projects include:

  • KJ Somaiya College in Vidyavihar, Mumbai (50 Kwp)
  • Chembur High School in Chembur, Mumbai (15 Kwp)
  • Alf Engineering Pvt Ltd in Nashik, Maharashtra (300 Kwp)
  • GES Polymers in Satara, Maharashtra (130 Kwp)
  • Puresource Clothing in Kalyan (30 Kwp)
  • Creative Garments in Kalyan (30 Kwp).
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