Indian solar growth is a trajectory impressive enough to compete with dominant solar players. Lack of an industrial backing could not stop India from introducing renewable energy installations within the country. Current solar power capacity standing at 12 GW, and 14 GW capacity projects under construction and 6 GW to be auctioned assured a quick solar growth within the country.

Besides the on-grid solar development, policies and schemes offering custom duty concession, tax holidays, excise duty exemption, and accelerated depreciation, for commercial and industrial sectors, have also led rooftop solar installations to rise from 72 MW per year to 227 MW per year. It is astounding that Indian rooftop solar has surpassed 1 GW capacity, and promising at least 75 per cent growth in 2017 over 2016.

All these show tangible progress, building up the future that will substantiate ‘power for all’ vision of Indian Government leaders. However, we are still nowhere near the countries (China, US) that already dominate huge parts of the solar product supply chain. And it is important to contend with these countries to claim a larger part of the industry, bringing profit to initiate socio-economic reform in the country.

Domestic manufacturing can help India build solar reliance. However, as India does not have systematically enhanced (fashioned through decades) industrial support that countries like China, US, Canada are backed by, Indian solar sector needs financial and policy support from the government to mass produce solar components, controlling the price of the products. For example, Chinese modules are still 8-10 per cent cheaper than domestically manufactured modules (Chinese modules cost $0.33-$0.36 cents/per Watt p, while domestic modules cost $0.35-$0.40 cents/per Watt p). This has created an unfair competition within the Indian solar industry.

Although, Indian solar sector has seen support in guise of Government backing, concessions, and waivers on sales tax, excise duty, basic custom duty, total custom duty have encouraged and allowed domestic manufacturers to go toe-toe with the foreign players, protecting Indian dream of solar reliance ( because, without domestic manufacturers our energy growth and security would be at the mercy of foreign suppliers).

Let us look at the privileges Indian solar sector enjoyed:

Excise Duty: The Excise Duty on Manufacture of Solar Modules (HS Code 854140) is Nil vide exemption notification no. 12/2012 dated March 17, 2012

Sales Tax: The Sales Tax in the form of VAT/CST has been Zero Rated/NIL/Exempted in most of the states namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh etc.

Basic Custom Duty: The Basic Custom Duty on import of Solar Modules (HS Code 854140) is Nil vide exemption notification no. 24/2005 dated March 1, 2015

Total Custom Duty: The custom duty on import of Solar Modules is Nil, since Basic Custom Duty is Nil and CVD (in lieu of Excise Duty) is Nil so, SAD (in lieu of VAT) is Nil.

However, we fear that with 5 per cent added tax on solar modules, brought on by GST rates, the competition will intensify even more than it is currently now, cutting down the profit ratio considerably, forcing domestic manufacturers to sell modules at a loss. GST tax on modules will also increase overall project cost considerably, which will essentially make projects financially unviable (due to continuously falling solar tariffs), breeding confusion on ROI, thus scaring off investors.

Indian solar industry will eventually become a subsidy free sector, satisfying the energy demand and bringing profit in the country for socio-economic development. However, reaching such a position will take time. Currently India is at a nascent stage and needs support from Government for growth we have envisioned. Burdening this sector with taxes would not be the right path towards success. Waiving off taxes on modules on the other hand can help the sector grow and build solar capacities within the country to claim a piece of the global energy market.

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In sunny regions, large-scale solar farms are already generating electricity a lot more cost-efficiently than coal-fired or nuclear power plants. Experts are forecasting that the cost of photovoltaics will continue to decrease, making them the most important energy source worldwide – a goal Bernhard Voll is passionately pursuing. He travels all over the world for SMA, making large-scale PV farms even more efficient and reliable.

Specialists can do more than generalists

Two huge gray containers, large white switch cabinets and a whole lot of cable – Bernhard Voll is in his element here. The engineer is in charge of SMA’s global medium-voltage business, and the containers with the slightly cumbersome name Medium Voltage Power Station 5000 are his “youngest offspring.” They are currently undergoing rigorous testing at SMA’s own PV farm at the company headquarters in Niestetal, hence all the cable. On the journey from El Salvador to Tokyo, Voll discusses the latest test results with project manager Jan-Hendrik Welzel.

The Medium Voltage Power Station contains all the technology required to convert direct current from PV modules into grid-compatible, three-phase current in large-scale PV power plants, feed it reliably into the high-voltage grid and support the grid in the process. “All components in the container, from the central inverter and the transformer to the switchgear, are perfectly coordinated with each other. The container solution allows our customers all over the world to build large-scale PV power plants of the highest quality in a minimum amount of time and at low cost,” underlined Voll. “A version featuring one inverter and an output of 2,500 kW is already on the market and is now being followed by this solution with two inverters in one container, supplying double the output.”

Partnership offers everything from a single source

One partner SMA is working with on the transformers and switchgear used in the container solution is Siemens. But the partnership between SMA and Siemens in the PV power plant business goes far beyond pure product solutions, as 56-year-old Voll explained: “Our customers can rely on the joint expertise of two specialists for planning, building and operating their plants. This is a clearcut advantage, for example when it comes to successfully taking part in auctions for new power generation capacity and ensuring that this capacity can be connected to the electricity distribution grid without any issues.”

An increasing number of countries in regions throughout the world are organizing auctions like this to guarantee a reliable and cost-effective electricity supply. Tenderers that provide the lowest prices per kilowatt hour of electricity supplied are awarded the contract. In bidding processes in the southern U.S., in Latin America and in Arab countries, large-scale PV power plants are already significantly beating the costs of using traditional energy generators like coal, oil and gas.

At the SMA PV farm, Jan-Hendrik Welzel and Bernhard Voll appraise the test progress of the new Medium Voltage Power Station.

At the SMA PV farm, Jan-Hendrik Welzel and Bernhard Voll appraise the test progress of the new Medium Voltage Power Station.

Quality pays off

Voll strongly rebuffs the widely held conception that this is only possible if you use the most cost-efficient components: “PV power plants need to deliver a reliable supply of electricity over decades. If the individual components within the complex system technology don’t work together properly, the system will never be able to realize its full capacity. This also translates into losses for the operator if, for example, part of the system breaks down as a result of poor component quality or reliability.”

For a large-scale PV power plant, which has 50 or more central inverters operating under challenging climatic conditions, such a breakdown means a substantial loss of sales. Against this background, it quickly becomes clear that it pays off to use tried-and-tested quality and sophisticated technology. “This is equally true for established markets in North America and Europe and future markets in South America, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East,” said Voll, who spends 150 days a year traveling to different continents to explain the advantages of end-to-end system solutions to project developers, investors and PV system operators. “Each market has a different set of characteristics and peculiarities, which is why it is important for our solutions to work under all climatic conditions and across all utility grids.”

At SMA, this means that all types of inverters are intensively tested. At the company’s in-house test centers, engineers and technicians artificially age these devices, cover them with layers of ice in climatic chambers and heat them to over 50 degrees Celsius in extremely humid conditions. They also test their electromagnetic compatibility and behavior with a wide range of utility grids.

With this extensive array of tests, SMA not only ensures the highest in inverter quality but is also laying the foundation for them to be certified as compliant with international technical standards by independent inspection companies. With the Sunny Central 2500 for instance, SMA was the first manufacturer to obtain both the essential UL-62109 certification for the North American market from the independent testing institute Underwriter Laboratories (UL) and IEC standard 62109-1/2 certification for global markets from Bureau Veritas for a central inverter featuring 1,500-volt technology – something that is becoming increasingly important internationally. “Independent confirmation of compliance with valid technical standards is required in many important markets. And certification both simplifies and speeds up the implementation of power plant projects, for example through simplified approval procedures,” said Voll.

Bernhard Voll and Jan-Hendrik Welzel are looking forward to seeing the first largescale PV power plants to use the Medium Voltage Power Station 5000.

Bernhard Voll and Jan-Hendrik Welzel are looking forward to seeing the first largescale PV power plants to use the Medium Voltage Power Station 5000.

Only real tests produce reals results

This means that, with the Sunny Central 2500, project developers can save on costs in two ways: through certification and through the 1,500-volt technology. Compared with conventional 1,000-volt technology, it reduces system costs in large-scale PV power plants considerably because the higher voltage means that more modules, among other things, can be connected to the inverters.

Two of these powerhouses are contained in each of the Medium Voltage Power Stations, which are currently being tested under real-life conditions at SMA’s PV power plant in Niestetal. Voll is exceptionally proud of the test facility: “None of our competitors have anything like this. They usually simulate tests and interactions between the individual components merely using a computer, which is like comparing a flight simulator with flying a real airplane.”

“Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the real-life tests at our test centers and in the PV farm to produce results that deviate from the computer simulation. After all, we are dealing with highly complex technology that is used in the open air and is thus subjected to all kinds of weather conditions. Perfect coordination between components sets the highest standards when it comes to design,” added Jan-Hendrik Welzel. He is extremely pleased with the test results displayed by the Medium Voltage Power Station 5000 so far: “When the station goes into serial production soon, our customers can be confident that they will be getting a system that has been coordinated down to the smallest detail and that will produce maximum yields at minimum costs for at least 25 years.”

Voll has no doubts about this either: “I’m confident that we will see the container solution in widespread use in countries from America to Asia within the next few years.” But for now, he has to head off to Tokyo where another Medium Voltage Power Station is waiting to be presented to a Japanese trade audience.

This article was first published in Annual Report 2016.

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May 26, 2017

Students line up with their models cars behind the starting line.

The Middle School Electric Car Competitions attracted students from 18 schools across Colorado. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

The cars raced down the straightaway, unless they didn't. Forward momentum can be a problem with solar- and battery-powered model cars designed and built by middle school students.

"There's a lot to getting these cars to actually move and go," said science and math teacher Catherine Tuell between races at the Middle School Electric Car Competitions, held on May 20 at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Golden. "There's a lot of problem solving and persistence. That's the main thing."

Tuell, who teaches at The Logan School in Denver, accompanied six of her students to the event. In all, 53 teams from 18 Colorado middle schools gathered outside under a cloudless sky for a day at the races. The cars that raced were products of teamwork, creative thinking, and an understanding of scientific principles. Although each school started with the same basic car components, there was a lot of room for innovative approaches and experimentation.

A series of time trials and double eliminations narrowed the number of competitors, leaving 16 teams in the solar and lithium-ion battery categories racing along a 20-meter neoprene rubber track for the championship. In between races, the students could run their cars on test tracks or refine their designs and gear ratios. Hot-glue guns, soldering irons, and coping saws were among the tools available for making improvements or repairs. Getting to this point, ready to face rival teams, required "a lot of planning," said Jeremy Anderson, a math teacher at Resurrection Christian Middle School in Loveland and coach to its two race teams.

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"I think one of the biggest challenges was getting the kids to think outside the box and not stick with the base models and experiment—to be OK with failure," Anderson said. In preparing for the event, his students "had a lot of cars that just raced once and got broken down and were rebuilt. It took a lot of experimentation on their part."

The know-how to make a race-worthy car comes to students immersed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. "I teach regular science, but these kids get a double-dose of science by taking a STEM elective," said Susan Coveyduck of Manning Options School in Golden. "They have two hours of science a day. They still get a broad spectrum of content in the regular science class. This is the application. This is the hands-on problem solving."

Coveyduck accompanied 16 students to the event, with the teams equally divided between the solar and battery categories. Just before the alert that signals the start of each solar race, contestants uncover their cars' solar panels. Battery-powered cars must have and on/off switch in the body design, so the teams racing those cars merely have to turn the motor on.

Students watch their cars race down the track toward the finish line.

The races took place on a neoprene rubber track that was 20 meters long. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Battle of the Batteries

Amanda Opp and her friends, all in eighth grade, raced as Manning Battery #1 after having previously built a fast-moving solar-powered car in their STEM class. For their battery-powered vehicle, they attached a small motor, axles, and wheels to a lightweight plastic paint tray. The cars in the battery competition must carry a 26-ounce cylinder of salt, so the deep well of the paint tray proved to be an ideal design element—but not one without complications.

"We have to hold a payload, that salt container, and the way we positioned it we had to figure out how to hold it where it was and not affect the wires," said Fong Lieu, another member of the Manning Battery #1 team along with Hallie Greco. Their tinkering worked. In the final race, Manning Battery #1 outperformed the other model cars and reached the finish line in 6.7 seconds. The team from Douglas County's Parker Performing Arts School was only a tenth of a second behind. Manning Battery #2 came in third at 6.9 seconds.

Parker Performing Arts, which also had a team in the solar division, was ably represented in the battery-powered race by Sara Boland and Breken Sharp. Both are fifth graders at the school, which classifies students in fifth through eighth grade as middle schoolers. Coming up with the right design "took quite a while, but not too long," Sharp said. "Finding a way to carry the salt was probably the hardest part." To solve that problem, they built a truck that could house the container and dubbed their entry Terry the Salt Truck. In addition to their award-winning time, Boland and Sharp also left with the first-place trophy for best design among the lithium-ion vehicles.

Solar Cars Burn Rubber

Sebastian Tabares and Kyle Kim, sixth-graders from Kent Denver, comprised the only team from the suburban school. They were interested in building an electric model car even before they knew about the competition. Their solar-powered car came together through trial and error.

"We had to test a bunch of gears and some of them broke or were too big for the axle," Tabares said. Kim: "Or too small." Tabares: "Yeah."

A model car draws power from the sun as the race begins.

The races alternated between cars powered by solar panels and those using a lithium-ion battery. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

The resulting car incorporated half of a plastic soda bottle to tilt the solar panel and aluminum foil to better focus the sun's rays—and proved fast enough to be among the final eight cars competing. The fastest solar car, the Stargate Purple Team from Stargate School in Thornton, finished the race in 5.73 seconds, just ahead of Ken Caryl Middle School's time of 5.753 seconds. The Stargate Silver Team ended the day in third place at 5.687 seconds. The Kent Denver team finished in fourth place with a time of 6.816 seconds.

Leaving NREL with a trophy would have been nice, but Kent Denver coach (and Kyle Kim's dad) Kelly Kim had something else in mind when asked what he hoped the team would take away from the race: "That you can actually use renewable energy for practical purposes. It's not just something you read in a book," he said.

Visit NREL's Energy Education website to learn more about the ways the laboratory inspires students to explore solutions for future energy needs.

—Wayne Hicks

This page outlines all the available funding and incentive schemes for solar energy in the state of Maharashtra in India, both at the Federal and State level. If you notice anything that is incorrect or out of date, please let us know via our contact page.

Maharashtra has 430 MW of cumulative capacity of solar energy as of January 31, 2017 with an extra 340 MW of works in progress, according to market analysts Bridge To India. It is forecast to achieve a phenomenal 12 GW of solar power capacity by 2022.

Federal incentives for solar energy in India

Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has the ambitious goal of reaching 100 GW of grid-connected solar power by 2022, and making India a global leader in the development of solar energy. Currently India is on track to reach this goal, and a poll we conducted via Twitter showed that half of respondents thought that India would surpass this and install “much more than 100 GW” by 2022, proving that optimism abounds on this question.

The JNNSM is geared toward both large-scale solar installations (60 GW) and residential rooftop plants (40 GW). It is rolled out in phases and batches, each of which consists of a reverse bidding auction. This means that bidders bid the price per kilowatt hour at which they would be willing to sell the electricity. The most recent auction was Phase II Batch IV of the JNNSM.

State incentives for solar energy in Maharashtra

The state of Maharashtra has taken decisive action in stimulating solar energy in the region. What follows are the various incentives and financial rules they have adopted in order to stimulate solar energy in the state.

Policy for large-scale solar projects in Maharashtra

Maharashtra’s current solar energy plan covers an installation of 7.5 GW, with 2.5 GW of this coming from Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco) and a further 5 GW coming from other developers. These projects must have a minimum capacity of 1 MW, although developers may bundle multiple projects of 250 kW or more to achieve the 1 MW floor. Solar power projects under the policy are exempted from acquiring a No-Objection Certificate (NOC), but must be registered with Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (MEDA). The electricity duty is waived for the first 10 years of solar plant operation.

For details of fees and charges for grid-connection, see the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) Regulations 2017.

Net metering policy for domestic solar rooftops

Maharashtra offers a net metering connection for domestic solar rooftops for both individuals and groups. The size of the system determines the voltage level that should be fed into the grid and the relevant authority of the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd (MSEDCL) to which the application should be submitted.

System size Voltage level Relevant MSEDCL authority
Up to 8 kW 230/240 V (one phase) Concerned sub-division office
8 to 150 kW/187 kVA (in Municipal Corporation areas)

8 to 80 kW/100 kVA (in other areas)

400/415 V (three phase) Concerned sub-division office
150 to 1,000 kW/187 kVA (in Mumbai Metropolitan Region)

80 to 1,000 kW/100 kVA (in other areas)

11 kV and above Concerned circle office

Application for the net metering program in Maharashtra is done with a simple online form.

Solar installations on Maharashtra government buildings and for people below poverty line

Maharashtra has put aside ₹2,682 crore aside for installing rooftop solar systems on government buildings (100% subsidy) and people below the poverty line (15% subsidy).

Are you interested in installing solar in Maharashtra?

If so, get in touch and learn how we can help you join us in the solar energy revolution.

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