With prices of solar energy systems reaching record lows in India, India is increasingly looking at the solar option to cut its dependence on thermal power and diesel consumption. The country has a very ambitious target of installing 100 GW of solar power by 2022, out of which 40 GW is expected to come from rooftop solar projects.
There are numerous advantages of installing solar on your rooftops. Falling prices of solar power has made it very competitive with grid connected electricity prices, especially for residential customers with a high consumption of electricity. It provides security from future escalation of electricity prices as rooftop solar price is fixed for 25 years. It is also beneficial for the government as rooftop solar leads to savings in new investments in power transmission as well as lower transmission and distribution losses as compared to the large solar farms. Rooftop solar energy also allows a larger number of people to benefit from solar energy rather than a few large developers.Rooftop solar makes more sense in cities and urban areas where availability of land is a challenge given the high prices.
Measures taken by Indian Government to promote Rooftop Solar in India:
The Indian government has taken various steps to promote rooftop solar in India. The biggest incentive is the 30% capital subsidy offered by the MNRE for rooftop installations by government departments and institutions. Loans for rooftop solar energy have also been made part of the priority sector lending for banks which will help increase the flow of credit towards the sector. Major public sector owned banks such as State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank have also secured hundreds of millions of dollars from multilateral institutions such as ADB and World Bank specifically for financing rooftop solar projects in the country.
Besides the above support, the Indian government has also enacted a number of soft measures to support the growth of this sector. An online facility to aid the installation of solar rooftop systems has been developed. Anyone who is interested can apply through the website and service providers would then contact the concerned person. The link is available on the website of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. A Solar Rooftop Calculator has also been developed for analysing the feasibility of grid connected solar rooftop projects across India.
A host of state incentives and schemes are also available on top of the central government incentives. The net-metering scheme has been rolled out in all States/ UTs. About 20 states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have come out with the solar policy supporting grid connected rooftop systems.
Governments in various states are also pushing rooftop solar installation through various measures. For example, the Haryana government has mandated solar plants in all government, private educational institutes, universities and offices having a connected load of 30 kW and for all private hospitals, industrial and commercial establishments having a connected load of 50 kW.
An Achievement linked incentive scheme was also launched by the MNRE in May 2016, which promises an incentive to states/ UT ministries for achieving their targets. All major government controlled sectors such as Railways, airports, hospitals, educational institutions, government buildings of central/state/ PSUs are being encouraged to install of rooftop solar. In addition, the Ministry is also promoting solar rooftops in the smart cities.
Despite the concerted push by the government, rooftop solar has failed to gain enough momentum in India. As of December 2016, solar rooftop installations had just crossed 1 GW mark across India. This is quite low compared to the overall solar capacity which has crossed the 10 GW plus mark.
Major Issues of Rooftop Solar in India:
Given the land constraints and high prices of land in India, the rooftop solar model should have been very successful in the country. However, the rooftop model has not been very successful in India owing to following major reasons:
- Difficulty in accessing finance by small businesses and residential customers
- Weak rooftop structure with less available area for panel installation
- India’s weak enforcement of contracts that is major hurdle in the PPA model
- Subsidized electricity given to lower slab residential customers and agricultural sector
- High cross subsidy charges has hindering the purchase of solar power by industrial establishments through the open access route.
- Lack of quality enforcement of rooftop solar systems.
Other than these, bureaucratic red tape and lack of awareness (about financial incentives and ROI) are the other major bottlenecks in the adaptation of rooftop solar in India.
Despite all its challenges, rooftop solar is growing in India though not at a rapid pace as expected. The falling solar prices have made the overall dynamics of installing solar very attractive. Various government-run institutions in India have been rapidly switching over to solar (partly) and are already reaping benefits. Major infrastructure sector like Metro rail projects, railways, airports, Jal boards, shipping, sports stadiums, oil companies, factories etc. are also coming forward for installation of grid connected solar rooftop plants. So far, 3,044 MW solar rooftop systems have been sanctioned/ approved and 506 MW have already been installed in residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. According to data by MNRE, annual financial savings of INR 830 crore can be achieved by about 50 ministries, if they install rooftop solar systems.
Rooftop Solar in The Indian Transport industry
Using solar power makes a lot of sense in the Indian transportation industry since their power consumption requirement is large and they are responsible for large GHG emissions. The Indian transportation industry has started to use solar energy to meet its power requirements.
Rooftop Solar at Airports:
The Airport Authority of India manages 125 airports across the country. According to a MoU signed between the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), AAI has plans to construct solar power plants on most airports to meet its power requirements. Any excess power will be supplied to the grid. With airports going solar, a major part of the overhead cost in the form of power bills can be minimized.
AAI will install solar plants on roof top surfaces as large areas are available at airports. Solarizing the air ports will thus utilize the vast empty lands (buffer zones) and solar resource. AAI has plans to solarize the airports in India and is ready to invest in these solar plants from its own budget, along with private developers.
The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is the first airport in the world to run completely on solar power. The Cochin airport which is the fourth largest in terms of international traffic in India has installed an array of 46,000 solar panels spread across 45 acres of land. It is powering the energy needs of the airport and also selling extra power produced to the Kerala state. The commissioning was done by the German company Bosch Ltd. and Renesola modules along with ABB inverters were used. The airport already has a huge 15 MW solar energy capacity which is supplying power for most of its usage. This will further increase by 40% as the authority is planning to install solar panels on 225,000 square feet of its carports as well as some of the ground spaces.
Following the success of Cochin Airport project, the Ministry of Airports have directed all major Indian airports to install solar power plants. The solar power plant on Kolkata’s NetajiSubhas Chandra Bose Airport leads toa saving of over INR 2 crore per year. Vikram Solar was the EPC player at Kolkata’s airport, where the firm’s ELDORA series modules have been installed. The airport is planning to increase its capacity to 15 MW from just 2 MW currently, which will guarantee bigger savings.
Other than the Cochin and Kolkata airports, Delhi International Airport Limited also runs on solar power. GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd which has already commissioned a 5MW solar power plant plans to increase capacity to 30MW by 2022. The Chandigarh airport is the most eco-friendly airport in the country with a 200 kW solar rooftop power plant.
Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport also plans to become the largest solar-producing airport in India, with a generation capacity of 14.6 MW.
Other airports running/ planning to run on solar power include Chennai, Madurai, Bhopal, Indore, Raipur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Jodhpur, Amritsar, Varanasi etc. are also planning to go solar.
Rooftop Solar in Indian Railways:
The Indian railways have already solarized so many railway stations in India. Railways have done a commendable job by the installation of solar module on the roof of the railway coaches which is one of the first such innovations globally. A trial run was conducted on a non-AC coach of the Indian Railway with solar panels on ~40 square meters of rooftop area powering a large part of the coach’s lighting, ventilation and other requirements.
The Indian Railways is also looking at installing solar panels on railway stations, railway buildings, and empty land. It is planning to generate 1 GW solar power in the next five years.
A 100 kW solar power plant has been planned to be installed at the CST (ChhatrapatiShivajiMaharaj Terminus, Mumbai) Railway Station, which has an energy requirement of 640 units of electricity per day. The annual savings are estimated to be INR 23 lakh, with per unit tariff at INR 12. The Katra railway station in Jammu & Kashmir has installed a 1 MW solar power plant, which is saving ~INR 1 crore in power bills annually.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has already installed nine new solar power generation facilities on different stations and the depot of the Badarpur – Faridabad Metro corridor. Solar power generated from Madhya Pradesh’s 750 MW Solar Power Plant atRewa will be used to power these metro trains in Delhi. This plant is estimated to be the world’s largest till date.
The Indian Railways has plans to deploy as much as 5000 MW of solar energy by 2025. It is also purchasing cheaper power by setting up solar panel systems at its offices and on top of railway stations. The Railways is now trying out a new scheme to increase renewable energy procurement by planning to install 4.5 kW of flexible solar panels on the roofs of train coaches. These panels are used because of their extremely light weight thus saving any damage to the roof. These solar panels will generate electricity and power the lights and AC in the coaches. The plan is to run 250 coaches with these solar panel systems. About six coaches will be trialed initially and after the performance for two months, it will be rolled out across the country.
Recently, Mumbai has decided to use solar energy to power two of the most important means of transport in the city. The first one is the Bandra-Worli Sea link and the other one is the upcoming Mumbai Metro Rail. The city will use solar energy to power two of the most important means of transport in Mumbai. Solar panels will be used for lighting and also for running air conditioners at these sites. Maharashtra is amongst the top five states in India with the largest solar installations. The bridge (Bandra- Worli Sea Link or Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link is a 5.6 km long bridge) will be illuminated using solar panels at both ends of the sea link. A total of as much as 60% of the total electricity expense which is currently more than INR 1 crore annually is expected to be cut down. The power from these solar panels will light up 50 street lights on both sides of the sea link including office, toll booths. Similarly, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has plans to use solar energy at the sub-stations where Rooftop solar technology will be used to supply power the metro and also the sub-stations.
Solar in Indian Warships:
Solar energy will be used to power Indian warships. INS Sarvekshak which is a hydrographic survey ship of the Indian Navy will be fitted with 18 flexible solar panels which will generate about 5.4 kW energy to power lights, communication equipment, battery charging and air conditioning. The anti-rust panels are capable of refracting the light from all different angles onto the cells
Solar on Famous Indian Buildings and Heritage Structures:
The Municipal Corporation of South Delhi is planning on going solar. A MoU was signed with SECI, for installing rooftop solar with a combined capacity of 10MW on 440 buildings. The project will be launched under achievement linked incentive scheme, wherein the corporation would be entitled to a subsidy of 25%. A total of 20 MW of solar installation is planned with 10MW coming from the rooftops and the remaining 10 MW from the ground installations. The power generated from the rooftops will be used by the municipal corporation and that from the ground installations would be sold to the discoms.
Solar energy has also attracted the spiritual gurus in India as several Indian temples and ashrams have also installed rooftop solar for their energy needs. If there is a commitment of 1 MW of solar capacity from each of these ashrams, that could be a great step towards the country’s solar target.
Mumbai’s famous Siddhivinayak temple has installed a 20 kW solar rooftop project (comprising more than 70 panels) which helped in reducing their monthly electricity bill by 30%. The Lotus Temple in Delhi also has a 120 kW solar plant in place, which will help displace nearly 120 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and generate 45,600 units.
The spiritual Guru and founder of ‘Art of Living’ had launched the International Interfaith Solar Alliance during cultural fest held in March 2016. Another spiritual center the RadhaSoamiDera, in Amritsar became the proud owner of world’s largest single rooftop solar plant, spread across 82 acres. The plant has a generation capacity of 19.5 MW, enough to meet the needs of 8,000 households. Many more temples in India are getting solarized. Seven temples in Tiruchi, Perambalur and Pudukottai districts of Tamil Nadu have been using power generated by solar energy during the day, which has already started to save money on their electricity bills.
A leading mall in Mumbai, Viviana Mall became the first mall to install power plant on a large scale. The mall will now generate 91,000 units per month through solar energy, which will entail a saving of 30% on its electricity bills.
Green residents of a housing complex in Kandivli recently installed 65 kW rooftop solar system, which entailed a total saving of nearly INR 2 lakhs on their electricity bills per month. More than 200 panels were installed which generates around 260-280 units per day, sufficient for the 230 families residing in the complex. The society has reduced their overall dependence on the grid by 60%.
Challenges in Using Rooftop Solar Plants:
Other than the numerous challenges faced by rooftop solar in India, there are some application specific issues which can hinder its usage in transportation industry. For example, there have been concerns regarding material strength and rusting of solar structures. Solar glare is another concern especially for pilots.
But India is marching with all its might, especially in adaptation of rooftop solar in areas under government control. Solar mounting structures are developedusing high grade rust-free and resistant materials that can last for 20 to 25 years. Most of the leading manufacturing companies offer a 25-year warranty with 100% replacement. Technological advancements have also led to reduction in the reflective index of panels, which has reduced the problem of solar glare to a large extent.
The Indian solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing energy industries in the world right now with massive expansion taking place due to falling prices and strong government support. While the ground mounted large utility space remains quite healthy, the rooftop solar segment has failed to take off. The myriad problems in the Indian power industry, as well as the lack of contractual enforcement, are the key impediments facing the segment.
India has a very ambitious 40 GW rooftop solar target by 2022 which implies a 40% share for distributed energy, however; its success has been very limited with only 10% of the total solar installations coming from rooftop capacity. The problems are daunting with net metering policies remaining mostly on paper and availing subsidies and loans is extremely tough too. Most of the capacity developed so far has come from government sponsored tenders while the private market has failed to achieve its potential.
The economics of the rooftop solar segment remain quite attractive that the industry is growing at almost a 100% CAGR despite these issues. Rooftop solar is economically cheaper for a large segment of the Indian population now but the problems of the net metering and financing are holding it back.