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Solar Energy

India Aims high to go green as it paces towards Solar Power commitment

Context

  • India leaping high towards clean energy, as it turns a blind eye to obstacles on the path.

Availability of solar power in India

With over 300 clear and sunny days every year, the calculated solar energy incidence on India’s total land area is about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year and most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per square meter per day, makes solar energy a very profitable option. The solar energy available in a year exceeds the possible energy output of all fossil … Continue reading “Availability of solar power in India”

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Benefits

  • While the benefits of utilizing solar energy are immeasurable. Some of the advantages which makethe renewable sources more favorable for India are
  • These are an inexhaustible source of energy and the best possible replacement to any non-renewable energy in India.
  • Solar energy is eco-friendly. When in use, it does not release gases which pollute the air much needed especially in a country such as India being one of the most polluted countries of the world.
  • Solar energy can be used for variety of house hold chores, suitable for the rural areas in India.
  • Solar power is inexhaustible. In energy deficient country like India, where power generation is expensive, solar energy is the best alternate means of power generation.

Challenges

Overall, India’s ambitious drive towards greener pastures is faced with a few urgent complications, which probably mayin fact diminish the solar energy drive.

Dismal installation of expensive rooftop solar power

  • The government has reserved40 GW as the rooftop solar target by 2022, but as of December 2016, only over 1 GW worth of installations have taken place.
  • Developers have stressedrecently that there has beenalack of uniform roofs in the country that doesn’t leave enough space to install big panels. A 10 KW solar plant that can power three air-conditioners and is sufficient for a three-bedroom apartment needs around 1,000 sq. ft. of terrace area.
  • Moreover,high costs of rooftop solar panels override the tangible benefit in the eyes of customers.
  • Lack of familiarity with the process and fear of excessive regulations by the bureaucracy are the reasons for the slow acceptance of solar rooftops in the residential sector.

Cheap imports hurting domestic manufacturers

  • Unselective and cheap imports of solar plants and machineries from Chinaand Malaysia have been hurting Indian manufacturing sector.
  • There are approximately more than110 registered Indian solar cell and module makers, out of which only a handful expects to survive (According to the Bridge to India)
  • High (85 per cent) import dependency of the solar sector hassparked serious concerns about the susceptibility of continued lesseningof solar power tariff.
  • Chinese companies have gained around 85 per cent of India’s solar module demand and earning around $2 billion, according to industry data.

Nature’stragedy

  • A 2014 performance analysis study by the Malpani group, a pioneer in the industry of power generation, calculated that for every megawatt of solar power capacity installed, an average output of a mere 19% is extracted.
  • Natural issues such as night, monsoons, dust and storms, solar power are neither produced all day nor throughout the year. Thus, the total maximum capacity of a solar power plant has never been exploited to its fullest.

Low Capacity Utilization factor (CUF)

  • To understand the scope of solar power in the country, one must differentiate between the installed grid capacity and the capacity utilization factor (CUF). CUF is the measure of how well a plant can be exploited. It is presented as a percentage of the installed capacity of a plant.
  • According to data released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in May 2013, India’s CUF of solar photovoltaic is anywhere between 11-31%. In the draft national electricity plan released by the central electricity authority in December 2016, the CUFof solar power plants is stated to a mere20%.

Too ambitious

  • The major problem with such a low CUF is highlighted when one realizes that all data released by the government gives targets on the basis of installed capacity. These targets look ambitious (and impressive) at first glance. However, any real shift to renewable energy as expected by the citizens is unlikely.
  • As per data released by the MNRE, cumulative capacity of solar is 7 GW for the year ended March 31, 2016. This will, in effect, generate power worth only 1/5 of such a capacity as opposed to if it were to be installed in other modes of generation.
  • As on the same date, October 31, 2016, rooftop solar contributes to an approximate total of 1GW of generated solar power. For this to increase to 40 GW in the next five years is a highly ambitious task for the government.

Government initiatives and Future prospects

  • Under National Solar Mission, the target for setting up solar capacity increased from
    20 GW to 100 GW by 2021-22. Target of 10,500 MW, set for 2016-17 which will take the cumulative capacity to 17 GW till 31st March 2017.
  • 34 Solar Parks of capacity 20,000 MW in 21 states have been sanctioned which are under various stages of execution.
  • The budget (2017-18)hasencouraged private solar companies by reducing the import duty on solar panels by five percent and exempting solar photovoltaic panels from excise duty. This is expected to reduce the cost of a rooftop solar-panel installation further by 15 to 20 percent.
  • The Mysore City Corporationis setting up a large solar power plant in Mysore with a 50-percent concession from the government of India.
  • The Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco) planned to set up four 200 MW power plants in the state.
  • A total amount of Rs. 67.01 crore has been sanctioned for preparation of master plans, solar city cells, promotional activities and installation of renewable energy projects and an amount of Rs. 24.16 crore has been released, so far, under Solar City Program.
  • A massive Grid Connected Solar Rooftop Programme launched with 40 GW target. State Electricity Regulatory Commissions of 30 States/UTs notified regulations for net-metering/feed-in-tariff mechanism. Rs.5000 crore approved for solar rooftops.

The National Solar Mission

The National Solar Mission was launched on the 11th January, 2010 by the Prime Minister. The Mission has set the ambitious target of deploying 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022 is aimed at reducing the cost of solar power generation in the country through long term policy; large scale deployment goals; aggressive … Continue reading “The National Solar Mission”

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Conclusion

  • The need of the hour is to re-analyze the existing solar power policy.
  • A level playing field and an ecosystem should be provided to Indian manufacturers. Arresting the free fall of power tariff is also must for a healthy growth of the solar energy system.
  • The situation calls for concentrated efforts by the agencies to build awareness among citizens and encourage developers to realize the goal, while simultaneously persuading the consumers to switch.
  • Insufficient knowledge among citizens about the financial incentives and return-on-investment has been a problem which needs immediate solution.

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