Solar projects: Ain’t no sunshine

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In November 2015, SunEdison — the US-based solar developer — created quite a stir in the Indian solar market by quoting a record low generation tariff of Rs 4.63 per unit (kWh) when global bids were opened for a solar photovoltaic technology-based power project in Andhra Pradesh. The quote effectively brought solar within touching distance of grid parity with other major sources of power generation.Four months down the line, as the US solar company teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and its share reduced to a penny stock, it’s abundantly clear that SunEdison, flushed with low-interest bearing financing, was possibly playing a disruptive bidding game aimed at destroying competition in projects such as the one that it bagged in Andhra Pradesh. A number of Indian players had participated in the tariff-based reverse bidding for setting up solar plants, but despite going in for cheaper, fully imported solar panels, none of them could succeed in the face of the really low bids placed by companies such as SunEdison.For the Indian solar sector’s efforts to inch closer to grid parity, there are even bigger setbacks. The news of America’s biggest solar company going belly up comes close on the heels of the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Panel ruling last month that New Delhi violated global trade rules by imposing domestic content restrictions on the production of solar cells and modules as part of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission — a blow to the country’s solar power programme.

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