Grid and off-grid PV market will witness significant progress in 2012

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Generating 30 terawatts of clean, green renewable energy by 2022 is the ambitious goal of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The first phase of this mission is just half way through. From generating merely a few MW of solar energy as of 2009, the JNNSM has kickstarted the MW size power plant movement in India. The year 2011 witnessed positive developments both in government segment and the industry. With the manufacturing capacity of crystalline PV modules and solar cells crossing 1 GW and 500 MW, respectively, the number of manufacturers has also increased.

By Raghunandan SS, vice president, engineering, Kotak Urja Pvt Ltd
By Raghunandan SS, vice president, engineering, Kotak Urja Pvt Ltd

Tuesday, March 20, 2012:  There has been aggressive participation from among the solar power plant developers, who rushed to ensure they were eligible to participate in the first phase of the JNNSM. Infact, over-subscription lead to reverse bidding, which in turn, witnessed the slashing down of the electricity tariff. A few projects did not even take off as the financial post reverse bidding did not interest financial investors. Even though the lower tariff rates created a slowdown, the competition between crystalline PV cells and thin film came in handy. Thin film prices went below US$ 1 per Wp. This pushed the crystalline PV prices down. In 2011, crystalline module prices dropped by nearly US$ 1 per Wp. The Gujarat Government’s Solar Mission, which is independent of the JNNSM, itself bundled 968.5 MW of solar projects. In spite of the slowdown due to lower tariffs, the drop in module prices gave the industry a breather. The sources for BOS components, viz. inverters, mounting structures and accessories, were established. The entry of big names like Reliance, Adani, Moser Baer, Lanco, etc, as project developers, brought about some momentum. The industry also witnessed big names like L&T, Punj Lloyd, Shapoorji Pallonji, etc foray into engineering procurement and construction (EPC) , strengthening the industry. As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)—by the end of November 2011, 143.5 MW of solar power plants were commissioned and operational under the JNNSM. Apart from this, under the Gujarat government’s solar programme, solar power plants generating 91.4 MW of electricity were operational by the end of November 2011. With more than 250 MW of solar farms in the pipeline for 2012, the industry had seen a significant improvement in the grid sector. The off-grid sector witnessed aggressive market penetration. The MNRE has approved the projects of various state nodal agencies adding up to 20.6 MW, making them eligible for central financial assistance to the tune of Rs 2 billion.

Forecast for 2012

The centralised grid and de-centralised off-grid is expected to see more government initiatives in 2012. The MNRE has set up the Solar Energy Corporation of India to assist in and function as the implementing and development arm of the JNNSM. With the government mandating the use of Indian made cells and modules, the country’s manufacturing capacity is likely to expand. This would also increase backward integration such as the production of wafers and polysilicon. Even though the drop in module prices over the previous year led to many companies reconsidering investing in polysilicon production, secure arrangements for the domestic industry through government initiatives would help revive investment plans.

The grid and off-grid PV domain is expected to witness significant progress in 2012 through a mix of technology development and market acceptance. Crystalline PV is likely to see an increased deployment in the grid-tied power plant segment. Even though the majority of solar farms used thin film in 2011, the statistics relating to energy yields demonstrate crystalline PV’s dominance over other technologies.

The need for mechanical trackers to increase the energy yield for the same module area, as well as R&D on maximum power harvesting possibilities, storage batteries and monitoring solutions are a few areas that the industry is expected to evolve in, in 2012.

While nearly 500 MW of power plants are in the pipeline for deployment in 2012, the off-grid segment will require continued assistance from the government. The prices of PV modules would also depend on the demand scenario in Europe. The market is likely to be more stable on the pricing front and more players are likely to enter balance of system and off grid segment.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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