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Innovative Strategies and Sustainable Development for Solar Energy in India

The India Solar Energy Summit occurred on the 17-18 February 2011 in New Delhi. The event brought together senior officials, PV manufacturers and solutions providers to provide a unique insight into evolving governmental policies, breakthrough technologies and investment strategies for this evolving sector.

Opening the event on day one was Dr. Pramod Deo, Chairperson of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) of India. He highlighted the role of regulators in solar energy projects and how they can help ease barriers to investment in this field. Key speakers such as Narasimhan Santhanam, Director of Energy Alternative India (EAI) spoke about opportunities for small and medium enterprises along the Solar PV and CSP value chain in the current solar energy boom in India. He highlighted opportunities in support systems such as those in the manufacturing of chemicals, wires and inverters, but also in other areas such as trading and services in engineering, software and human resources management.

Andreas Thermann, Senior Project Manager at KfW India noted in his talk that the German-funded banking group is prepared to fund projects in India provided that there are strong economic ingredients such as fixed rate feed-in-tariffs via power purchase agreements and that the project developer has solid experience in the sector.

Insightful revelations were announced at the event such as that by Dr. G.M. Pillai, Director General of the World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE) who discussed policy development in Indian States to promote solar energy. He noted that the targets of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) are inadequate to meet the overall goal of 15% renewable energy, set by the Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change, and that a doubling of the original JNNSM targets is now required.

Anil Patni, Deputy General Manager, TATA BP Solar Ltd said bidders in India’s first solar auction have committed to building plants at unviable rates because they don’t understand the costs of the technology. He claims the government, which is expected to award the next round of licenses later this year, should select bids closest to the average to weed out unrealistically low ones.

In addition, Mr. Amit Barve, GM, Schott Solar AG highlighted that the IEC-61215 standard certification mandated by the government of India is in itself not sufficient to ensure high reliability modules. In his view, the standard misses several critical aspects such as consistency of manufacturing, checks on supplier quality upstream in the value-chain, manpower skills, quality procedures used by manufacturers and a lack of good testing methods, such as combined heat and humidity tests.

Notable sessions included the panel discussions.

In day one’s discussion Dr. Christodas Gandhi, Chairman of Tamil Nadu State Energy Development Agency (TEDA) mentioned that as a government representative he would like to give a message to the entrepreneurs in the industry to focus on cost reduction as government support policies cannot last for very long. He was also in favour of decentralized power generation by small rural establishments instead of large-scale power plants.

The panel discussion on day two was moderated by Vineeth Vijayaraghavan of Panchabuta. The panellists were M.P. Singh, Joint Director-Projects of Punjab Energy Development Authority (PEDA), Dr. Swati Purakayastha of Optimal Power Solutions and Mr. Sushil Kumar Paliwal from MoserBaer.

Mr. Singh discussed the first ever grid connected private power project in India – a 2MW project by Azure Power, and mentioned that the generation was around 1.6 million units per annum per megawatt.

Further he said that states like Punjab, where land is fertile and expensive, should focus on rooftop solar more than grid connected. He also recommended smaller solar projects where land could be given by the local governing bodies (Panchayat) in villages for development of smaller projects. Mr. Paliwal highlighted that thin films are well suited for India due to the low capital costs as well as stability in hot weather conditions and was surprised that not many developers are looking at thin films in India.

On the question of land availability, he mentioned that although land is low cost and plentiful in India, the project developers are finding it difficult to acquire the land in a timely manner.

Panchabuta, was happy to be associated with the event and it was great to discuss about the solar situation in India with leading manufacturers like Trina Solar, JA Solar among others. It was also good to hear the perspectives from some of the European developers.

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