Should we go for large scale mega solar farms or the smaller decentralised solar projects?
I totally agree that auctions carried by SECI for development of MEGA Scale Solar + Wind and hybrid plants in recent times though yielded extremely low tariff and large financial rewards, but the policymakers are forgetting that it is leading to a huge impact on following
- Wild life
- Transmission constraints
- Land issues
- Huge transmission losses in transfer of power to load centres
- PPA signing with the financially stressed distribution companies who are not interested to buy this power. The current outstanding with generators and fuel suppliers is worth Rs.1,33,00,000 lac crores.
- 23000 MW projects auctioned in the last two years are running at risk for timely compilation and developers approached CERC / SERC for cancellation or time extensions.
- The large scale solar energy penetration into the existing grid will unbalance the grid and the RE Generation will face curtailment during its peak generation. The solar energy penetration without storage will create frequent disturbance due its variability and uncertainty.
- India still lacks in manufacturing high efficiency MONO PERC PV modules and smart inverters including expertise in single axis tracking.
- The government so far collected huge money by imposing a 25% safeguard duty on modules, but yet to promote local Industry to manufacture latest high efficiency equipment to meet domestic demand and complete projects. The Chinese supplier has recently increased module prices in the range of 20 / 25% resulting to short fall in supplies to complete pipeline projects.
- Most markets all over the globe has phased out MEGA scale solar farm development like US, Australia, Germany, UK, Spain etc. and plans switched over to DISTRIBUTED Solar Generation added with battery storage.
- Mega Scale Project restricts the rural employment and encouragement to Make In India object into reality.
India, in fact must find opportunity to learn from US’ and Australian solar energy programmes including the mistakes made before embarking on a similar path,
Entry of foreign companies in the recent auction of 1070 MW solar project by SECI bringing investment at low cost isolated all Indian players except NTPC whose equity coming from balance sheet and can afford IRR @ < 6%. This is not a good sign for make in India and rural employment.
DISCOMS outstanding to power generating companies has reached Rs.1, 33, 00, 00,000 crore and distribution losses to 25% restricting them to purchase even the low-cost solar power, meet consumer demand and keep pace with industrial growth. The MEGA and Ultra-mega solar plant is no longer a viable solution for access to reliable and affordable clean energy to all sections of society including farmers in rural villages because of challenges encountered by the industry for the land, access to transmission, and PPA signing by DISCOMS. More ever these MEGA projects do not have Storage and therefore will create huge grid unbalance and solar generation will be forced for curtailment during peak sun irradiation. India still does not have capacity to produce MONO BIFACIAL + 500 Watt modules and also smart String Inverters to feed domestic equipment and prove this Rs. 2/- price viable. More ever single axis tracking which makes systems more productive is not encouraged because of EPC confidence and high price.
The huge money collected by imposing SafeGuard Duty of 25% has not been utilised for the solar industry to manufacture high efficiency solar equipment in India . A setback to MAKE IN INDIA. These new MEGA scale projects will have 100% dependence on Chinese supplies who increased module cost to 25% in the last 4 weeks. The successful compilation of these projects is therefore a big question? The industry is well aware that out of 23000 MW such projects auctioned during the last couple of years, 50% capacity are under threat of cancellation and balance are running delayed.
The solution now lies to promote large-scale penetration of distributed solar generation (DSG) with storage into the grid and harness immense solar energy potential available all across the country. Such a system will technically fit in an existing transmission network, supply clean energy to Farmers, Domestic, Commercial, Industrial consumers and meet even the heating and cooling at affordable cost. The systems will further provide grid stability, improve tail end feeder voltage, eliminate accidental blackouts apart that all issues related to permitting process, biology, storm water, noise, or any other possible environmental impact will disappear in execution.
This concept can easily spread all across the country for high-level penetration into the grid and will technically accommodate 200 GW solar energy in the grid. DSG with Storage penetration at this level will transform India’s future energy resilience for its 2030 electricity road map and greatly replace all other formats of power generation – the concept of DSG added with energy storage is the answer vis a vis to limit mega-scale solar development and eliminate thermal power development. Development and installation of solar energy generating systems by installation of Micro grid solar systems, off grid standalone solar power generating mini grid system, net metering rooftop solar system and 500 KW – 2MW small capacity grid tied Distributed Generation Solar Generation with 25 % storage to be connected to existing 33 / 11 S/S is the future of India’s mission to supply clean energy at affordable cost @ i.e. Rs. 3 / unit to all and prove cheaper compared to Rs. 2.0 / unit derived for MEGA Scale projects without storage allowing transmission and wheeling at zero cost. Concurrently, the access to multilateral funding if provided for DSG with storage and smart grid functions will rationalize grid harmonization costs. I am open for discussion on this concept and welcome all stakeholders to be a party to realize solarisation of all rural 33 / 11 KV S/S by the installation of DSG with BES. This will ensure day time power to starving the Rural population, provide energy security, eliminate transmission losses and generate huge employment.
Contributed by :
GOPAL LAL SOMANI