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India’s Largest Utility-Scale Solar Projects Under Development

Industry Insights
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India has launched an aggressive program to accelerate deployment of renewable energy across the country, setting an ambitious target of 275 GW of renewable energy, representing 40% of India’s total targeted installed generation capacity, by 2027 (see Figure 1.). Solar will play the dominant role, with upward of 165 GW across utility-scale projects, rooftop installations, floating solar, hybrid wind-solar and concentrated solar power (CSP). The announcement in April 2018 of a 5 GW solar park in Gujarat highlights the size of the effort, which is motivated in large part by escalating pollution pressures and steep price declines in renewable energy tariffs, particularly solar, in the past several years. These price declines have topped 50% since the start of 2016, turning renewable energy into the lowest-cost source of new capacity, with pricing up to 20% below the average power tariff of existing, domestic thermal power plants.

In terms of exploring various models of new technology application in India, solar-wind-battery hybrid systems have now entered the Indian electricity sector. In April 2018, Hero Future Energies co-located a 50 MW wind farm with a 29 MW solar project to best leverage the 50 MW grid connection investment and start the process of addressing how the grid will increasingly accommodate higher variable renewable energy generation. This model also employs better land use and takes advantage of existing regulatory approvals.

Following this, in the same month, Andhra Pradesh government announced a tender for 2 GW of solar and wind to be co-installed with existing operational 2 GW of solar and wind projects in the Ananthapur district of the state. This emergence of a hybrid model in India stems from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s (MNRE) draft wind-solar-battery hybrid policy which targets 10 GW by 2022.

The UMPP concept involves a state government or local distribution company facilitating a single central grid connection and taking on the procurement and time-delay risks relating to land acquisition. This approach has been instrumental in driving economies of scale and procuring global capital flows into India over the last two years, with an immediate boon in the form of a halving of solar tariffs to a record low of Rs2.44/kWh (US$39/MWh) achieved in mid-2017.

Over 2016/17, India commissioned two of the four largest solar projects in the world, one each in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, two of the best solar radiation sites in the country. What will be the largest operational solar project in the world, at 2,225 MW, is due for commissioning in 2019 at Bhadla in the desert of Rajasthan, with a 2,000-MW facility at Pavagada in Karnataka due online at the same time. A renewable energy grid transformation in India is under way, driving deflation, improved energy security, reduced reliance on fossil fuel imports and providing some relief from pollution pressures as well.

Figure 2 outlines 12 of the largest industrial solar parks in India to date. We have listed them by size, grouped by those already operational, then those partly operational and grid connected, then those understood to be under construction. Finally, we detail several plants that have been announced but are not yet under construction.

Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, 1,000 MW, Andhra Pradesh

The 1,000 MW Kurnool solar facility is India’s largest operational solar project. The project, located in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district. epitomises the UMPP model, which relies on attracting international capital from firms such as Greenko, backed by sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and Singapore, SoftBank of Japan in partnership with Foxconn of Taiwan and BHEL (trading as SBG Cleantech), as well as Indian investors such as Adani Green Power and Azure Power.Andhra Pradesh Solar Power Corporation (APSPCL) led the development effort, first by acquiring nine square miles of land for the project and then working to secure funding of Rs500,000 ($7,700) per MW to improve roads, drinking water and training facilities in surrounding villages. Local skilled and semi-skilled workers also were given preference for job opportunities in the solar park.Under the UMPP scheme, the national government provided a subsidy of Rs200,000 (US$3,000) per MW to APSPCL to develop the solar park.

The first 500 MW was awarded to Sun Edison at Rs4.63/kWh in January 2016, and 350 MW was awarded to SBG Cleantech at Rs4.63/kWh, 100 MW to Azure Power of India at Rs5.12/kWh and 50 MW to Adani Green at Rs5.13/kWh. Just a year later, solar tariffs were up to 50% lower,64 highlighting the price deflation sweeping through the Indian market.

Adani Kamuthi Solar Plant, 648 MW, Tamil Nadu

Adani Green Power’s Kamuthi facility in Ramanathapuram district was the world’s largest solar plant when it was commissioned in September 2016. The plant was planned and built in two years with an investment of US$679m and covers 2,500 acres. It was built without securing the necessary water licences for module maintenance and washing, forcing developers to look for other solutions. They solved this issue by incorporating a new self-charging, remotely operated, waterless robotic cleaning system developed by Israel’s Ecoppia and manufactured in India, a cost-effective and efficient technique that optimises the cleaning process, guaranteeing long-term high performance.

Bhadla Industrial Solar Park, 2,225 MW, Rajasthan

The Bhadla facility in Rajasthan will have a total capacity of 2,225 MW when completed in 2019. The first 680 MW was commissioned in August 2017. The facility is being developed by Adani Renewable Energy Parks Rajasthan Ltd., a joint venture of the government of Rajasthan and Adani Green Power.The Bhadla facility in Rajasthan will have a total capacity of 2,225 MW when completed in 2019. The first 680 MW was commissioned in August 2017. The facility is being developed by Adani Renewable Energy Parks Rajasthan Ltd., a joint venture of the government of Rajasthan and Adani Green Power.Various developers are involved in the park, including ACME, SBG Rising Sun, Rattan India, Fortum of Sweden, Azure Power, Avaada Power and ENGIE of France. In March 2018 SBG Cleantech confirmed it was on-track to commission 600 MW of new solar at Bhadla this coming year as part of its US$20bn commitment to Indian solar development.68 The full 2,225 MW is due for completion by April 2019.69 The Bhadla plant also features the Ecoppia module cleaning system.

Pavagada Solar Park (Shakti Sthala), 2,000 MW, Karnataka

The Pavagada solar park in Karnataka is the second largest industrial solar park globally currently under construction. This facility illustrates how quickly renewableenergy infrastructure can be planned, financed and built when a suitable energy policyenergy infrastructure can be planned, financed and built when a suitable energy policyframework is in place.71 As of January 2018, 600 MW was already operational (priced backin 2016 at Rs4.79/kWh, or US$73/MWh). March 2018 saw a further 550 MW successfullytendered by the state government-owned Karnataka Renewable Energy DevelopmentLimited (KREDL) at prices of Rs2.91-2.93/kWh (US$45/MWh)—39% lower than the firsttender two years earlier.72 This section should be operational no later than 2019. LeadingIndian domestic renewable energy developers to win this round were Renew Power (300MW), Avaada Energy (150 MW) and Azure Energy (100 MW). An additional 650 MWtender for Pavagada has been deferred due to regulatory uncertainties relating to thethreat of a 70% solar module import duty combined with the 25% rise in the price ofChinese modules in India since the middle of 2017.

Ananthapuramu - I Solar Park, 1,500 MW, Andhra Pradesh

Ananthapuramu – I Solar Park is the largest under construction in Andhra Pradesh; it isAnanthapuramu – I Solar Park is the largest under construction in Andhra Pradesh; it isspread across two villages in the district of Ananthapuramu and Kadapa. The 1,500 MWproject will be the largest PV facility to be built from domestically manufactured solarcells and modules, aligning with Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ program. NTPC Ltd,India’s state owned utility, is planning to develop 1,000 MW of the 1,500 MW total. Thefirst phase of 250 MW was commissioned by NTPC in 2015 with a PPA with the AndhraPradesh state-owned electricity distribution company at Rs5.96/kWh (US$91/MWh).74 InMay 2018 NTPC completed a tender for the remaining 750 MW at Rs2.71-2.72/kWh, just45% of the tariff pricing of just three years ago. Ananthapuramu – II, totalling 500 MW,will be built near four villages of the same district.

Kadapa Solar Park, 1,000 MW, Andhra Pradesh

The 5,928 acre, 1,000 MW Kadapa facility is being developed by the Andhra Pradesh SolarThe 5,928 acre, 1,000 MW Kadapa facility is being developed by the Andhra Pradesh SolarPower Corporation (a joint venture of the government of Andhra Pradesh and thegovernment of India). The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) awarded the bulkof the facility’s capacity, 750 MW in April 2017 at what was then a competitive price ofRs3.15/kWh result.76 But with the continuing, sharp price deflation that characterised2017 that saw solar tariffs drop to a record low of Rs2.44/kWh, the distributioncompanies involved refused to honour the proposed contracts. While clearly anissue for the solar sector, this price deflation is a much graver threat for the country’salready financially troubled thermal power generators, raising serious concerns aboutmassive stranded asset risks in the sector. The remaining 250 MW was won by ENGIEof France’s SolaireDirect under a bundling strategy (tying at-the-time more expensivesolar with lower-cost coal-fired power that can be supplied when solar electricity isnot being generated).

Rewa Solar Park, 750 MW, Madhya Pradesh

This 750 MW facility in Madhya Pradesh is being developed by Rewa Ultra Mega SolarThis 750 MW facility in Madhya Pradesh is being developed by Rewa Ultra Mega SolarLtd., a joint venture between SECI and the Madhya Pradesh distribution company(MPUVNL). Three developers—Mahindra Renewables, ACME Solar and SolenergiPower Ltd.—have each won the right to develop a 250-MW solar project at thecompetitive tariff of Rs2.97/kWh (US$44/MWh), with commissioning scheduled forDecember 2018. An interesting feature of this solar park is that 24% of its generatedelectricity will be sold to the Delhi Metro, providing 90% of its daytime electricityrequirements; the balance will be purchased by MPUVNL.

Gulf of Khambhat Solar, 5,000 MW, Gujarat

Vijay Rupani, chief minister of Gujarat, announced plans in April 2018 for a 5,000 MWVijay Rupani, chief minister of Gujarat, announced plans in April 2018 for a 5,000 MWsolar park covering 11,000 ha along the Gulf of Khambhat at an estimated cost ofUS$4bn. The development would create 20,000 jobs during construction.

Fatehgarh Solar Park, 1,500 MW, Rajasthan

The Adani Renewable Energy Park Rajasthan Ltd (AREPRL) in the Jaisalmer districtThe Adani Renewable Energy Park Rajasthan Ltd (AREPRL) in the Jaisalmer districtof Rajasthan is a proposed joint venture between Adani Green Power Ltd. and theRajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Ltd. A transmission agreement covering1,000 MW has been signed between AREPRL and PGCIL. Beyond the agreement,however, there is little evidence of progress or tendering activity within the park.

Agar-Shajapur-Rajgarh Solar, 1,050 MW, Madhya Pradesh

In Madhya Pradesh, the 1,050-MW Agar-Shajapur-Rajgarh facility has been proposed byIn Madhya Pradesh, the 1,050-MW Agar-Shajapur-Rajgarh facility has been proposed byRewa Ultra Mega Solar Ltd. This follow the 750 MW Rewa project noted above, with a third,the 700 MW Neemuch-Mandsaur solar park to follow. Madhya Pradesh plans to bring 2.5GW of industrial solar online by 2020.

Ramanathapuram Solar Plant, 500 MW, Tamil Nadu

The state’s distribution company (TANGEDCO) won the right in December 2017 to convertThe state’s distribution company (TANGEDCO) won the right in December 2017 to converta 1,500 acre site in Kadaladi originally procured for the development of a now strandedimport-coal-fired power plant. TANGEDCO is now proposing to use the site for a 500-MWindustrial solar park, taking advantage of the area’s high solar radiation. Completion is duein 2019. Given that there are upward of 50 GW of stranded, partly-built thermal powerplants across India, and an additional 48 GW of end-of-life thermal power plants slated forclosure by 2027, land rezoning for solar reuse is a major opportunity in the country.

Fig 1: India’s National Electricity Plan to 2027

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Fig 2: Twelve of the Largest Indian Utility Solar Projects in Development

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Credits: Solar Is Driving A Global Shift In Electicity Market, IEEF Report, May 2018

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