Thursday, 18 February 2016

Solar Power: Net Metering in Maharashtra

Due to rapid industrialization and urbanization,electricity demand in the country has increased rapidly.While nearly one-third of the population lacks access to electricity, many others have to endure routine power cuts. Production of coal which provides about quarter of the country’s electricity has not been able to keep pace with demand. Even when coal is available, discoms are reluctant to buy power from gen cos as they are not confident about recovering their costs. Cost of coal itself is variable and expected to increase. Renewable energy is expected to play an important role in bridging this supply-demand gap.

Solar energy is fastest growing power source in the country. The Central Government has set an ambitious target of 100,000 MW installed capacity for solar energy by 2022. About 40,000 MW is targeted from on-site (e.g rooftop, parking lot, vacant land) solar power plants at the consumer’s premises.Out of this, MNRE has been proposed highest capacity target of 4,700 MW for Maharashtra.

Solar Energy

Solar is an in firm source of energy.Generation from solar power plant varies with various factors such as solar irradiation, cloud cover, temperature etc. At the same time, there may be unavailability of load at the consumer’s facility due to factors such as lunch time, shift change, holidays etc. To match constantly varying generation and consumption, facility of energy storage is required at the consumer’s premises. However current cost of batteries makes it financially unviable.
To address this challenge and to promote solar energy installations, various solutions have been used across the world. Net metering is a one of the solutions to this technical challenge. It is an arrangement where energy is injected into the grid at the time when there is no load demand at the consumer’s end. This energy can be consumed at a later point of time during availability of load.

solar power plant

Net Metering was first introduced in USA to promote onsite renewable energy installations in 1980.Today almost all states in USA have made rules mandating utilities to provide Net Metering facility to consumers.
Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) released Net Metering Regulations on 10th September 2015. Salient features of the regulations are as follows:
  1.  Ownership – Can be owned by the consumer or third party
  2. Capacity Limits – Lower of Contract Demand/ Sanctioned Load or 1 MW
  3. Term of the Agreement – Twenty years
  4. Energy Accounting – Adjustment in respective Time-of-Day (To D) slots. Excess energy left un adjusted at the end of the month will be adjusted during night time and then carried forward to next month MSEDCL will publish final application form and net metering agreement on the basis of model documents released by MERC. 

rooftop solar

A consumer interested in setting up a rooftop solar Net Metering system will submit the application form to MSEDCL along with technical details of the system.Before solar power systemstarts generating electricity, MSEDCL and Consumer will enter into a Net Metering connection agreement.The accounting of electricity exported and imported by the Consumer shall become effective from the date of connectivity of the rooftop Solar PV System with the distribution network.

Despite announcement of net metering regulations in all leading solar states including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi,net metering is yet to pick up. In order to make net metering successful in Maharashtra, technical standards and operational procedures need to be clearly defined.Long term support from State Government in terms of policy clarity and stability will make Maharashtra a leader in distributed generation.

About the Author :

Ashish Tikhe is Manager – Policy and Regulations at Sunshot Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
Sunshot Technologies is a leading On-Site Solar Power company. It provides customised solar power solutions to industrial and commercial consumers in the country.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Solar Power: Sustainable solution to India’s Energy Needs

Solar Photo voltaic is proven technology with more than 1,75,000 MW of installed capacity over the world. Europeisa pioneer and leader in solar power installations with countries like Germany,Italy, France and United Kingdom at the forefront.These countries promoted solar PV since last decade by providing attractive tariffs for sale of solar energy. At the end of the 2014 total installed capacity in Europe stands at about 90,000 MW. Solar energy is important source of energy with some of these countries sourcing more than 7% of total energy.

Following suite, since last three years, installations in the Asia-Pacific region and America are also beginning to catch up.China, Japan and US added about 30,000 MW of capacity in 2014 alone. This is more than 75% of capacity installed during the year in the world.India has installed about 1,000 MW during this period.

India is blessed with one of the highest solar resource in the world. On an average 4 to 7 units of energy are incident per square meter. An average of 250-300 sunny days are available when solar plant can generate power close to its maximum efficiency.To meet rapidly increasing demand of electricity, India has set target of 1,00,000 MW capacity by 2022. To achieve this target, Central Government has provided benefits - Accelerated Depreciation, Tax Holidaysfor revenue generated from Renewable Energy and Solar Energy Purchase Obligations for promoting solar power projects in the country.In addition, Central and State Governments have come up with various incentives and schemes to achieve this target. Due to these efforts, installed capacity of solar power projects in the country has crossed 4,000 MW.

Large, utility scale solar power projects have been the centre of attraction in India thanks to implementation of the National Solar Mission and Reverse Bidding in States. Governments have facilitated such projects by providing developers with land permission, single window clearance, power evacuation facility and subsidies. Due to these efforts, large-scale grid connected projects make up most of the solar capacity in the country.Recently opened bids in Madhya Pradesh have resulted in a tariff of as low as Rs. 5.05 per unit for 25 years. 

This isa record low price for solar power generation in the country.Cost of electricity from coal is about Rs. 2.50 to Rs. 3.50 per unit which is only going to go up in the near future.Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has proposed a Scheme for Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects in the Country. Under this scheme, utility scale solar power projects of capacity 20,000 MW have been planned by year 2019. 

Maharashtra is the leader in industrialization as well as power capacity in India. However, demand for power is expected to outstrip supply rapidly in the coming years. Solar energy can be an important contributor to electricity supply mix in the state. To tap the huge potential for solar energy in the state, Government of Maharashtra has approved policy on renewable energy which targets installation of 7,500 MW of solar power projects in next 5 years. The projects will get deemed NA permission, deemed industry status, deemed open access permission. There will be no need for no-objection certificate and consent letter from the MPCB and method for registration with the Maharashtra Energy Development Agency would be simplified. Success of these projects will depend on provision of infrastructure such as land, water and evacuation facility by the government.

Onsite solar i.e. solar on rooftop or within the consumer premises, promises to provide answers to multiple challenges faced by India in its quest to provide electricity to its entire population.One of the key advantages of onsite solar power is its modularity. Vacant land or rooftop in the consumers’ premises can be used to install solar power plants. The system can be synchronised with the internal grid and backup diesel generator. It can also be easily dismantled when required. Typical rooftop solar power plant consists of solar panels, inverters for converting direct current to alternating current, monitoring systems and balance of system including mounting structures and other electrical components. The Government has recognized the inherent advantages of on-site solar power. This is reflected in the significant share of on-site solar in capacity targets – onsite solar has been allocated a target of 40,000 MW out of the total target of 100,000 MW.

To promote onsite solar energy, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has published Draft Net Metering for Rooftop Solar Systems Regulations, 2015. As per these regulations, any consumer subject to fulfilment of specified conditions, can install grid synchronized solar power plant of capacity up to 1,000 kW in the premises. Any excess power generated by solar power system during holidays can be injected into the grid and consumed later. Final regulations are expected to be notified after stakeholder consultation.

Due to rapidly increasing tariffs for industrial and commercial consumers, solar energy has become a viable alternative to replace daytime consumption. A typical solar power plant lasts more than 20 years and provides substantial cost saving over its lifetime.There are two options for sourcing Onsite Solar power. Consumer can invest in a solar power plant installed in their own premises. Alternatively, an external investor may install a solar power plant in the consumer’s premises and sell power to consumer at a pre-determined rate.

Apart from Cost savings in electricity bill and tax benefits associated with accelerated depreciation, following are some of the added advantages of solar energy:
  •  Long term visibility on energy costs
  •  Utilize vacant rooftop space
  •  Add to facility’s aesthetics
  •  Address company’s sustainability goals

Considering the limitations of acquiring land and setting up large scale transmission infrastructure, on-site solar provides a faster and more efficient way of addressing our energy requirements. Many large consumers have already installed solar plants on their rooftops and spare land in their premises. As consumers become more familiar with solar power, it is expected that it will be adopted faster and at a much larger scale.

About the Author:

Ashish Tikhe is Manager – Policy and Regulations at Sunshot Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
Sunshot Technologies provide On-Site Solar Power solutions to industrial and commercial consumers in the country.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Quality Of Solar Power

SolarPower Plants – Making the Right Choice :

India has an ambitious target of setting up 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Out of this 40 GW capacity is expected from onsite solar power plants located in the consumer’s premises. Solar technology and prices have matured as a result of which solar power is an attractive option for industrial and commercial consumers. Simultaneously, a number of solar companies are now offering their EPC services. Due caution is required while selecting an EPC company. Buyers need to evaluate EPC companies on technical as well as commercial parameters.

Design :

Load analysis at a consumer’s facility
Improper designs have resulted in problems such as shading of solar modules excess capacity etc. in many projects. A good solar design takes into consideration parameters like shadows, location, structure loading and electricity consumption pattern.

Material :

Use of sub-standard materials in solar power plants has created problems for Buyers. Material used in solar power plant can be broadly classified into three items based on commercial value.

Solar Modules

    a)    Modules – They make up about 55% of cost of solar power plant. China has developed large manufacturing base which allows manufacturing of solar modules at affordable cost. Modules of top tier companies should be preferred.


b) Inverters – They are most important components in the solar power system. They not only convert DC to AC but also optimise generation as per changing site conditions. Inverters make up about 12-15% of the cost of the solar project. Most of the inverter technology today is from Europe. Leading inverter manufacturers should be preferred.

Balanceof the Plant
    c)    Balance of Plant – Balance of plant includes module mounting structures, LT panels, cables etc. They are often given less attention compared to modules or inverters as value of these components is lower. However selection of these components is also important and affects performance of the solar plant.

Workmanship :

Improper shading of modules
Good design can only be of value if it is planned and executed properly. Good project workmanship requires good project management practices, safety standards and material handling practices.

Choosing the right EPC Company is important for getting the most out of a solar power plant. While comparing companies, Buyers should consider parameters like experience of past projects, complexity of installations and understanding of technical aspects. If done and maintained in the right way, a solar power plant will not only reduce electricity bills but will also last long time.

Ashish Tikhe is the Senior Manager – Strategy & New Business at Sunshot Technologies Private Limited.  Sunshot Technologies is a leading on-site solar power company. It provides customised solar power solutions industrial and commercial electricity consumers.