India needs more focused measures to tap rooftop solar potential

By Editor


India aims to develop distributed or rooftop solar capacity of 40 gigawatts by 2022. It is part of the 100-gigawatt target the government has set.

However, the country is still a long way from achieving that target despite abundance of solar irradiation at 5.1 kilowatt hour per square meter and more than 300 sunny days on average in a year.

The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has stated in a report that India has the potential to develop 25 gigawatts of rooftop solar systems. And a rooftop solar power system on average generates 1-3 kilowatt hour of energy.

According to a report by the credit rating agency CARE Ratings, the inclusion of commercial buildings, shopping complexes and offices can further expand potential of rooftop solar power generation in India.

At present, India has installed capacity of only 300 megawatts of rooftop solar power systems. So, what is the country doing to capitalize on its rooftop solar potential?

Source: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)

In recent years India has been adopting various measures such as the adoption of National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), and state-level policies aimed at increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix.

But the deployment of rooftop solar systems has been lagging due to the “lack of distinct policy framework and infrastructure support to address requirement of small scale decentralized SPV rooftop systems”, CARE has observed.

Globally, though, rooftop solar makes up significant share of solar energy capacity of nations. According to data published by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the six top nations in rooftop solar installations have derived roughly 56 percent of their total installed capacity through rooftop solar installations.

Government support in terms of policies has been vital in the growth. While Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and capital subsidies are dominant among the schemes offered by countries such as Germany and Japan, USA is promoting distributed generation through tax credits and rebates.

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Government of India is also waking up to the potential of rooftop projects, which is evidenced by the projects taken up under Phase II of JNNSM as well as policies announced by states.

The efforts notwithstanding, India needs to do much to build a robust system that supports rooftop power generation. CARE has listed high upfront costs of solar installations among hurdles to rooftop solar power generation. This is despite reduction of panel costs by about 50 percent globally since 2011.

Installations without integrated storage require Rs1 lakh (about $1,500) per kilowatt without subsidy. Batteries, inverters and other storage paraphernalia add to the costs. And financing options are limited in the absence of precedents.

Even if challenges on the installation side are successfully met, there are more that remain in the grid itself. The grid is still not equipped to handle small scale power generation and there are fears of stability issues. And utilities are ill-equipped to monitor and verify power generation under the FiT approach.

Source: CARE

The absence of specifications for output from solar rooftop installations such as voltage, flicker, and synchronization for net-metering system poses issues in smooth integration with the grid.

The likelihood of reverse power flow and inefficient low voltage systems are still real problems with rooftop solar projects, CARE reports.

Above all, rooftop solar projects are yet to expand significantly due to the lack of awareness among consumers.

Solar power has achieved grid parity with commercial tariffs in many states. But rooftop installations are at very nascent stage in India. Capital subsidy alone may not be the solution to achieve targeted installations. Comprehensive solar solutions are the need of the hour, CARE notes.

“Implementation of SPV rooftop systems can be accelerated if solar solutions are easily available and accessible as a complete package; easy financial assistance is available and there is increasing awareness among consumers about its economic/environmental benefits.”

Ajith Kumar S

[email protected]

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