“Unlocking the Potential of Hybrid Wind and Solar PV Plants in India: A Study on Grid Stability and Cost Savings”
India’s government has ambitious plans to increase renewable energy sources, with plans to reach 500 GW by 2030, and wind and solar PV expected to play a significant role. To optimize the deployment of wind and solar PV, a strategy that has been gaining attention is the co-location of the two technologies to form a single hybrid power plant. Hybrid plants have the potential to reduce transmission infrastructure costs and variability in the output power profile, compared to a stand-alone plant with a single technology. However, with the increasing share of variable renewable energy (VRE) on India’s grid, there are concerns about grid stability and the integration of these renewable sources. In this context, a study was carried out to address the potential savings from hybridizing wind and solar PV plants in India and to identify the locations for these opportunities. One of the main benefits of hybrid plants is that the times at which the two technologies generate electricity are complementary in India. In general, wind speeds tend to increase during and after sunset hours. To identify potential locations for hybrid plants, the study compared the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of hybrid and stand-alone plants at all locations in India where VRE development could occur. The LCOE includes the capital cost, fixed operational and maintenance cost, and cost of interconnection. Because hybrid plants share a single interconnection, transmission cost savings may lead to a lower LCOE. The study found that the best locations for hybrid plants exhibit both a high interconnection cost and a wind capacity factor between roughly 34% and 38%. The locations suitable for hybrid plants are scattered across southern India, and the study identified roughly 49 GW of wind capacity and 32 GW of solar capacity that could achieve a lower LCOE in a hybrid configuration than in a stand-alone configuration at the same location. The study also found that the cost savings benefit of hybrid plants compared to stand-alone plants is relatively small. However, this simple method does not capture the value of the electricity generated by looking at energy prices, nor does it quantify the potential of hybrids to provide other value streams such as firm capacity and reserves. Further, because the work does not compare solar PV and wind hybrids to alternative generation technologies or storage systems, it cannot be considered a holistic cost-benefit analysis. When wind and solar resource quality are comparable or hourly resource profiles are complementary, combining the two technologies can result in more annual energy, relative to investment and operating costs, compared to developing either stand-alone resource. In the study, two hypothetical hybrid plant sites were analyzed, and it was found that less than 1% of the annual energy is curtailed at all sites across India. In conclusion, hybrid wind and solar PV plants have the potential to reduce transmission infrastructure costs and variability in the output power profile, compared to a stand-alone plant with a single technology. However, a holistic cost-benefit analysis is needed to compare solar PV and wind hybrids to alternative generation technologies or storage systems. Hybrid plants are a step in the right direction towards integrating renewable sources into the grid and achieving India’s ambitious renewable energy goals.