According to reports, El Nino may rattle the rest of the country by disrupting the monsoon but for solar projects the prospects of better sunshine is a blessing, particularly after unseasonal rains and thunderstorms in April and beginning of May clouded prospects of higher solar power generation.
Solar power project developers who invested heavily in building country’s 2,600 mw of capacity are concerned about their generation which has dropped in recent weeks due to unseasonal rainfall and cloudy weather that reduced solar radiation while winds increased dust on solar panels.
While some project developers hope to make up for their generation losses if El Nino phenomenon ends up in weak monsoon others are aiming to use unfriendly summer as a strong argument to get higher tariff.
A senior official at the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation said cloudy weather tends to bring down the ‘Plant Load Factor (PLF) of solar power plant by at least 2%. In Gujarat, solar power producers are waiting and watching for the trend to emerge by the end of May.
At Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, Welspun Renewables Energy has set up 150 mw, country’s largest solar plant at single location near Rajasthan border. “April and May are expected to be good months for solar generation, however cloudy days will impact generation. July and August are relatively lower generation months,” said Vineet Mittal, vice chairman, Welspun Renewables.
According to PwC associate director for energy & utilities, Amit Kumar, the number of hours of sunshine and the level of radiance is high during the April to June period. “But a cloudy season during April and May has significantly impacted the production during these peak months,” he said. “It’s a generic conclusion that if there is dry season till August or given the impact of El Nino phenomenon, even till September, power producers can expect an elongated period of solar power generation this year,” said Kumar.
Weather forecasting agencies across the globe have strongly predicted the chance of El Nino developing this year. This oceanic phenomenon, which disrupts rainfall in regions across the Pacific Ocean, has a history of adversely impacting the Indian monsoon.
“A solar power plant usually runs on a PLF of 20-21% and increases by 2 to 3% if there is strong solar radiance for a long period. We are hopeful that low generation during April-May would be compensated if we have a long, dry summer season,” said the official quoted above.
Weak summer for solar power generation may also influence regulatory battles between developers and their customers. At least seven developers have approached the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) saying that the solar radiation data supplied by the ministry of new and renewable energy is faulty.
The government of Gujarat too has approached the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity to seek downward tariff revision saying that developers invested less than the norms declared by state electricity regulatory commission while solar power generation in the state is good enough to get investors adequate returns.