Buoyed by the leg up in solar power development in the country, rooftop solar is fast catching up with land becoming scarce particularly around major cities where solar provided a viable solution to tackling peak power demand. With net metering fast catching up, solar power provided an option to drastically cut monthly electricity bills.
Along with rooftop, a new development to erect floating solar power plants on ponds and lakes has opened up opportunities to provide solar power in a big way in rural India. This is precisely the reason Prime Minister Narendra Modi government has decided to step up rooftop solar power generation to 20 Gw and that of floating solar power to 10 Gw as part of its ambitious solar power generation of 100 Gw by 2022. Solar power was slow to pick up in India when compared to China. But lately there has been a sudden spurt in India and by March 2018, cumulatively India generated 20 Gw of solar power and nearly 10-12 Gw of solar power was commissioned in 2017-18 alone.
With about 300 clear and sunny days in a year in most parts of the country, the solar energy available in India exceeds possible energy output of all fossil fuel energy reserves in the country in a single year. India’s land area is about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours per year. With the noticeable fast depletion of fossil fuels and increasing electricity demand solar is a good option but land, which is required in large parcels for solar, too is becoming scarce even though a large quantity of wastelands is still available. But demand for other uses of wasteland like urban development and infrastructure is increasing. So, rooftop and floating solar power help in conserving valuable land and water. Solar PV system on water bodies like oceans, lakes, lagoons, reservoir, irrigation ponds, wastewater treatment plants, wineries, fish farms, dams and canals provide an attractive option. This also prevents excessive water evaporation and limits algae growth improving water quality.
Aware of this potential, the world’s largest producer of solar power, the Chinese company, Trina Solar, has come out with an innovative solution to promote rooftop solar in India. China already has one million rooftops solar PV installed. Last year alone, Trina, a Chinese word loosely translated means clean air, installed 100,000 solar rooftops. The company, which has the capacity to manufacture 8 Gw of solar PVs in a year, will soon come out with solar kits with an option of storage as well for off-grid power generation, for the Indian market. Gao Jifan, Chairman and CEO of Trina Solar, said that the kit, with up to 3 kW capacity, will provide a complete solution for the erection of solar rooftop facility so as to ensure quality, easy and quick erection of rooftop plants.
With solar power price falling to Rs 2.44 per unit Trina Solar expected a huge demand for the kit in India, which is now third largest producer of solar power in the world after China and United States. As India being a focus country in solar power, “we cannot ignore the market,” Gao said adding he would also look at setting up a solar PV manufacturing in India when the time is ripe. It has already purchased 90-acre land near Visakhapatnam but would wait for a conducive environment to set up at least 500 Mw capacity fully integrated solar PV manufacturing plant. At the moment Adanis and Tatas are the two major manufacturers and they do not manufacture solar wafers, which require huge investment and uninterrupted power supply. Their capacity is small at 200-500 Mw. Trina already controls 20 percent of the Indian market and first to cross 3 Gw of solar power in India. All Chinese players are present in India. Indian government policy, infrastructure and supply chain is still not conducive for large scale manufacture of Solar PVs in the country.
Trina has already finalised distributors and dealers in India for rooftop solar kits. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab are among the leaders in Solar power generation. Lately, Uttar Pradesh is fast catching up while Rajasthan and Gujarat have slowed down because of being power surplus states. Solar PVs are non-toxic material and hence can be easily disposed of when its life-cycle ends after 25 years.
Lately floating solar power has caught on in China and India. The West Bengal government has identified two solar floating solar power projects in Murshidabad. The proposed projects are 5 Mw floating solar at Santaldih and10 Mw at Barkeswar Thermal Power Plant. Trina Solar has set up largest 40 MW floating solar power plant in a lake in Southern China and planning another 130 Mw solar power plant in another location in Southern China. At present in India, Kerala has the largest floated PV solar project of 500 kW size.
CEO of Sun Source Energy, Adarsh Das, said recently the company, which is into the erection of solar power plants, has set up a floating solar power of 100 kW in Panipat at Indian Oil Refinery for its cooling water tank. Significantly the PVC like floaters on which the solar panels are erected is made in India and a Gurugram company proposed to patent the product unlike in China. Trina Solar has imported the floaters from France, for its 40 Mw floating solar farm. It is only in the process of developing indigenous Chinese floaters.
Das said Sun Source which was into rooftop solar is now setting up large solar farms in India following its success in setting up one in the Philippines.
Das was however critical of the delay in refunding the set offs after GST came into being. This was affecting the margins for solar companies, which were mostly in the small-scale sector. GST has originally fixed 12 percent rate for solar power plants, which was subsequently reduced to 5 percent after protest from the industry. But on inputs, the tax is still high and as a result, a huge refund is yet to be made resulting in a large chunk of money still stuck affecting the working capital of these solar power companies, mostly in the small sector. If these refunds are not made, many solar companies may fold up at a time Indian government is pushing hard solar power generation in the country.