Solar as a business in India or wherever in the world is quite dynamic, especially given the recent scheme of things. From when solar was introduced, to when it started getting recognition, to now, when it has become popular, the industry has witnessed some major milestones in terms of technology developments, increased applications, free fall in prices etc. The interesting part is that the Indian solar industry is still in the growth stage, hence posing a lot of opportunities, not only to expand with the existing technology base, but also to launch new technologies and products.
If we closely look at a solar power plant, there are a lot of components involved such as solar panels, inverters, cables, structures, HT/LT and even batteries in case of off grid systems. Each component is developing itself every passing day. It can be easily witnessed that the technologies that become financially feasible start catching up and ultimately succeed the outgoing technologies. For instance, since my introduction to the industry, the most selling product used to be 300Wp solar panel, which has now been replaced by 330Wp solar panel at a substantially lesser cost down from $0.55/Wp to $0.30/Wp approx.
Now, with introduction of Mono-PERC technology, one can get solar panels with efficiencies as high as 360Wp. Lead Acid batteries are also on a verge of getting replaced with lithium ion batteries, which are much lighter and have a much higher life span. Even in case of utility scale solar projects, the concept of Energy Storage System (ESS) is also cropping up, which is basically a cluster of lithium ion batteries put together. The industry has already seen sun tracking structures, which increase efficiency of solar systems up to 20-30%. Projects with floating structures, which help put solar on streams and water bodies, are now being implemented. All these standalone product technologies are making the solar industry grow to its full potential.
These are just a few mentioned noticeable changes that have happened in the recent past. With such a dynamic and constantly evolving industry, it is very difficult to determine what the future holds, but it is definite that the solutions will improve and it will surely be at the most economically feasible cost.
In a macro perspective, 2030 should see India’s maximum electricity generation through renewable energy, advanced energy storage systems, electric vehicles plying on roads with efficient charging infrastructure in place, and even newer technologies, whether it is hydrogen or methanol fuel cell. There is no denying that India has a lot renewable energy potential which is yet be exhausted. The industry still has a way to go before it matures around mid 2020s. The government has played a crucial role to help the industry grow and it is un-doubtful that the joint effort of the government along with various stakeholders of the industry will definitely result in how we envision India to be, minimum carbon footprints and maximum sustainability.
If we divert from technology, solar like any industry is pure play economics. If we analyse the situation, the tenders are being rolled out, which might cumulatively add up to 100GW by 2020, as the target issued as per National Solar Mission, but we see tenders getting annulled quite often, the reason is dynamic pricing nature of the industry. The government won’t buy electricity if in the process of tendering, the technology got cheaper, and companies won’t implement if the project doesn’t offer the returns they expected while bidding, which is fair. What can be done is that there can be a formula mechanism to this, so that the overall development is not hindered.
As far as small rooftop solar is considered, the real challenge lies in the skepticism of people investing their hard-earned money into something they don’t quite understand. The quantum of investment is also a major factor affecting the purchase decision. Two surefire ways to tackle this problem are a provision for EMI by banks and a specialized insurance plan, although these added securities will come at a premium. Once consumers know how to finance this technology, they need to understand the technology itself, its uses and its payback. Solar literacy camps organized by the government in collaboration with corporates to break down the complexities facing this technology will go a long way in imparting knowledge and dispelling misconceptions.
As a whole, it is definitely an interesting to be a part of the growth story of the industry, and help shape it towards a better and sustainable India.
Author: Mr. Manik Garg, Executive Director, Saatvik Green Energy