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Solar market to get going in India

A study conducted by Indian consulting firm Bridge to India finds that the solar market will be healthy over the next 10 years and probably even exceed state targets. But there is a lack of incentives for off-grid PV, which could play a crucial role in the country.

 - Photo: Belectric
Photo: Belectric

After four months of construction, Belectric’s first PV powerplant (left) went into operation in Sri City in the province of Andhra Pradesh. Across 2.4 hectares, the 14,000 First Solar modules produce around 1,660,000 kilowatt-hours of solar power annually.

In its latest Indian Solar Handbook, Bridge to India finds that the Indian solar market is getting going. The estimate is nearly 230 megawatts of newly installed capacity for this year, which would bring the total up to 250 megawatts. "This summer, only 46 megawatts of solar energy had been installed, far less than the 14,980 megawatts of wind power, which provides most of our renewable energy," says Kadampat Punnan Philip, manager of the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). The National Solar Mission (NSM), the policy to promote solar power in the country, has a target of 20 gigawatts for 2022. But Bridge to India believes that India will far exceed that target and install 33.4 gigawatts by then. By 2018, when grid parity will be reached, the consultants expect 14.15 gigawatts to be on the ground.

The study believes that lower cost is the main reason for this fast growth; in the past two years, costs have fallen by 16 to 20 percent, and the trend is expected to continue over the next three years as economies of scale and technological improvements continued to bring the price of PV down.

The main potential is currently in utility-scale PV power plants, which are also the main benefactors of state subsidies. That trend is also expected to continue over the next two years. The study says there is a lack of incentives for concentrated solar power, which continues to have high upfront costs. In addition, there are not enough incentives for small, off-grid solar power – the very thing that many parts of India need. As Philip explains, "40 percent of the population does not have access to the grid. But even the villages connected to the grid can benefit from solar power because the Indian grid is so unreliable." The study explains that the growth of off-grid systems, whose potential is estimated at 15 gigawatts, depends on green power certificates, a type of state policy. (Sven Ullrich / Craig Morris)

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