India – Concentrating Solar Power

On the second day of the India Solar Summit in New Delhi, the first session was on the topic of the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) market and was presented by Mr. Lokesh Jain of Mott MacDonald. In India, developers are mainly setting up concentrated solar energy sites in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, where there is a lot of barren land and good solar irradiation. Site selection, he said, is an important factor and should take into consideration aspects such as climate conditions, terrain, grid vicinity and accessibility of a water network.

The challenges highlighted for Indian concentrated solar energy implementation were as follows:

* A very challenging time-frame of implementation required by the national solar mission guideline of two years, whereas CSP plants worldwide generally take more than 36 months to become operational.

* Infrastructure development issues such as access to the grid, water connection and land bank identification.

* The main technical challenge is lack of data on Direct Normal Incidence (DNI) radiation, which affects the productivity of the thermal power plants. Although the Indian government is planning to install 50 radiation measurement centers across India, it will take a while before reliable data is available.

He is of the view that the solar parks, such as the one announced in Charanka, Gujarat will address some of these issues, as they enable sharing of infrastructure with other facilities in the park.

A session by Mr. Narasimhan Santhanam of Energy Alternatives India (EAI) uncovered opportunities that small and medium scale enterprises can explore in the current solar energy boom in India. He highlighted opportunities in the support systems such as those in manufacturing of chemicals, wires and inverters, but also in other areas such as trading and services in engineering, software and human resources management. He drew an analogy to the California gold rush where gold diggers made moderate profits, while the supporting companies such as Levi Strauss made huge profits by supplying the required garments.

Other interesting sessions in the day covered solar module quality, industry automation equipment, solar glass pre-processing and power conditioning units for systems. Mr. Ashok Prakash of Optimal Power Solutions highlighted the importance of fast response embedded controls in inverters, especially in India where the power grid is weak and characterized by high voltage fluctuations. He also mentioned the importance of thermal management of inverters using power conditioning units that can improve their operation in the very high temperature tropical regions of India.

Speaking on the topic of output stability and reliability of solar modules, Mr. Amit Barve of 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 lack of good testing methods such as combined heat and humidity tests.

The panel discussion was moderated by Vineeth Vijayaraghavan of @Panchabuta. The panelists were Mr. MP Singh, joint director-Projects of Punjab Energy Development Authority (PEDA), Mrs. Swati Purakayastha of Optimal Power Solutions and Mr. Sushil Kumar Paliwal from Moser Baer. Mr. MP 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. He further 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.

By Nilesh Jadhav,