Boosting solar power

Kashmir Times. Dated: 3/13/2018 12:18:20 PM

Feasibility reports should be prepared for undertaking surveys to map usable rooftops for solar power nationwide basis

Jammu and Kashmir government's decision to go in for electrification of about two score of villages through solar power on local basis is a welcome step so far reaching the remote and far flung areas is concerned. Caution has to be exercised before such an exercise is undertaken by the concerned government agencies so that the issues of corruption and irregularities are kept at a distance for the success of the project. It is also a welcome sign for the development of these villages where extension of the electric cables and power lines through the towers is not possible. The cost of such an infra-structure for remote and far flung areas has been a difficult proposition during the past seven decades in view of the high costs involved in the process. Since the technological advances have made the solar power installations and operations cheaper compared to what it used to cost three decades back, coverage area has increased over the years. The recent Bengaluru's aerial mission to produce a three dimensional map of rooftop solar power potential using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data can give this key source of power a big boost. Similar mapping exercises have been carried out in several countries over the past few years to assess how much of a city's power needs can be met through rooftop solar installations. The survey helps in determining usable rooftops, separating them from green spaces, and analyses the quality of the solar resource. With steady urbanisation, solar maps of this kind will help electricity utilities come up with good business cases and investment vehicles and give residents an opportunity to become partners in the effort. An initiative to rapidly scale up rooftop solar installations is needed if the target of creating 40 GW of capacity connected to the grid by 2022 in whole of India is to be realised. The rooftop solar power growth has demonstrated an overall positive trend, including in the fourth quarter of 2017 when tenders for 220 MW represented a doubling of the achievement in the previous quarter. But this needs to be scaled up massively to achieve the target at the national level. Going forward, domestic policy has to evaluate the impact of factors such as imposition of safeguard duty and anti-dumping duty on imports, and levy of the goods and services tax on photovoltaic modules. The industry is apprehensive that the shine could diminish for the sector during the current year, unless policy is attuned to the overall objective of augmenting capacity. The government also needs to provide some sort of incentive for the people, who become partners in making investment for this purpose. This can help save lot of resources of the public exchequer and make power available to the people on uninterrupted basis.
It has to be borne in mind that major solar power projects that connect to the grid often face the challenge of land acquisition and transmission connectivity. This has been the main reason in causing delay in planned capacity coming on stream during 2017: nearly 3,600 MW did not get commissioned during the last quarter, out of a scheduled 5,100 MW. This underscores the importance of exploiting rooftop solar, which represents only about 11 percent of the country's 19,516 MW total installed capacity at the start of 2018. The central government should come up with incentives, given the enormous investment potential waiting to be tapped and the real estate that can be rented. The south Indian states and Rajasthan together host the bulk of national solar infrastructure on a large scale. With some forward-looking policymaking, they can continue to lead by adding rooftop capacity. India, which is a founder-member of the International Solar Alliance launched in Paris during the climate change conference more than two years ago, must strive to be a global leader in this sector. Initiatives such as the Bengaluru mapping project can contribute to assessments of both real potential and risk. This is crucial for projects on a large scale involving significant exposure for financial institutions, including Public Sector Banks. With ongoing improvements to solar cell efficiency and battery technology, rooftops will only get more attractive in the future not only for the institutions but also the individual stakeholders. This can also go a long way in resolving the challenges posed by the rising demand for power in the country.



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