According to reports, Gujarat has announced five more rooftop solar photovoltaic power projects in five cities, totalling 25 MW. The State Government has advertised calling for bidders to buy the ‘request for proposal’ documents.
The five projects are divided into three packages. The first is for putting up a 5 MW plant each in Vadodara and Mehsana. The second is for a 6.5 MW project at Rajkot and a 3.5 MW one at Bhavnagar. The third is for one project of 5 MW at Surat.
All these projects would be grid-connected. The project developers would rent rooftops, put up the plants and sell the power to the state electricity distribution company, Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd, and its subsidiaries. The discoms will purchase power from these developers for 25 years.
Each ‘project’ would come up on several roofs.
IFC, the arm of the World Bank that lends and invests in public and private sector projects, is the advisor to Gujarat on this initiative.
This is the second time that the government of Gujarat is coming up with projects based on the rent-a-roof concept. The first was a pilot project at Gandhinagar. Two companies – SunEdison and Azure Power – were awarded 2.5 MW projects each. The tariff at which these projects would sell their power to the state has not been disclosed.
The announcement of the 25 MW rooftop initiative is significant because it sets a precedent for similar initiatives by other States.
Today, there are two kinds of solar power projects. One is the large, ‘utility scale’ projects, like 5 , 10, 20 or 50 MW, coming up on large tracts of land, sometimes in a dedicated solar park, as in Gujarat.
The other is distributed generation—small-sized plants that are put up on rooftops of commercial buildings and households, or in villages. These plants could be either grid connected or not. But in any case the power they produce is consumed locally.
Germany, the world leader in solar installations with over 28,000 MW of solar power plants, is almost entirely rooftop. The United States, by contrast, is a mix of utility-scale and rooftop. This is the model that looks like unfolding in India.
Many believe that the future of solar industry in India is in rooftop projects. The owner of the roof either gets a fixed rent or gets a share of the profits the developer makes.
A rooftop plant proliferation in the country also means a huge employment generation opportunity, because putting up the plants and, importantly, maintaining them, is a labour-intensive job.