Boosting rooftop ‘parks’ can help India achieve solar energy goal
Recent newspaper articles have highlighted the rooftop photovoltaic (RTPV) sector’s sluggish growth in India. The articles claim that based on the present outlook, the 40 GW target for 2021-22 will not be achieved. Greenpeace India’s report shows that RTPV uptake in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai has been abysmal. While the large-scale ground mounted solar parks have gathered critical mass in India with tariffs as low as Rs 2.44/kWh, RTPV is lagging behind significantly, comprising only about 1.46 GW of today’s 12.5 GW installed solar capacity.
Statements from officials insinuating that Indians want to use their rooftops for alternative purposes such as drying clothes, sleeping and hosting parties are extremely misleading. RTPV systems can easily be designed with raised mounting structures, at low incremental costs, to keep enough free space and provide a cooling effect below. A deeper look into the problem reveals the major barriers hindering growth of RTPV in India.
A typical kW level system costs Rs. 60,000-75,000/kWp which is 1.5-2 times more than ground-mounted behemoths. For a lucrative business case for prospective consumers, with a healthy internal rate of return (IRR>13 per cent) and payback period (<7 years), the net-metering (NM)/ gross-metering (GM) rate should be in the range of Rs. 6-7/kWh
To provide a much-needed thrust to this sector, it is imperative to bring down costs to a level where Discoms are comfortable (near the APPC). For large solar parks, a host of incentives, like readily available land and evacuation infrastructure, and risk-free Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Reserve Bank of India backing, have helped developers reduce costs drastically.
Unfortunately, the same efforts have not been extended to RTPV, apart from Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) recently tendering out 1.5 GW across all Indian states on government buildings. A more innovative approach needs to be taken by the central and state governments, in collaboration with Discoms, to promote RTPV. A thorough potential assessment exercise needs to be undertaken for all major cities and towns to identify suitable rooftops, after taking shading aspects into consideration.