Solar power in telecom towers, agri pumpsets viable business

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It is reported that solar powered telecom towers and solar powered agriculture pumpsets are attractive market segments from scale and potential perspective. The solar power can economically replace diesel fuel consumption. Diesel power is used in industrial and retail sector: both as a back up and as a full-time source of power generation. Its utility is usually observed in far-flung areas where grid connectivity is nearly absent. DG-sets operating for over four hours daily can economically use solar power, especially during daytime, the report said, adding it may not be economically feasible to replace diesel generation (DG) completely through stand-alone solar systems with battery-bank.

According to the report, telecom towers and agriculture pumpsets have potential for solar power use. Telecom towers with low connected load and almost non-existent grid power supply are the most viable choices for solarisation. While there is high dependence on diesel, the power from DG-set is also quite expensive for towers in those areas.

According to preliminary analysis, diesel consumption in telecom tower industry will increase from about 2 billion litres per annum (comprising about 3.5 per cent of India’s annual diesel consumption) at present to about 3.5 billion litres per annum by 2020 (on the assumption that total number of towers will double by then). Reducing the consumption of diesel from power segment just by 10 per cent can save around $450 million annually.

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Around 50,000 towers in the country at present have a strong business case for solarisation and require minimal subsidy support from the government. Accordingly, an opportunity for installation of around 250 mw of solar PV capacity is viable. Further, the potential will increase with more towers becoming viable in the coming years. In this case, development of a solar lease model for telecom towers can enable higher solar power adoption.

According to estimates, India has an installed base of 25 million pumpsets, with 18 million electric pumpsets and around 7 million diesel pumpsets. Based on calculations, replacement of diesel pump-sets with solar powered ones can lead to a potential of 12,000-15,000 mw for solar power.

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