Indian ‘ultra-mega’ projects set to help drive down solar costs

The Indian government has signed up to a plan to help fund some of the world’s largest solar PV parks across, increasing the energy poor nation’s total solar capacity by orders of magnitude.

“We’re preparing a scheme for solar parks and it will be out after cabinet approval in about one month,” said Tarun Kapoor, joint-secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, speaking at the EQ solar Summit on Friday.

The parks – each comprising as much as 20 gigawatts of capacity, about 10 times what India has built to date – will host large plants ranging between 500-1,000MW that will be connected to the grid.

State utilities will be expected to purchase at least 20 per cent of the power generated at the parks, leaving project owners free to export the remainder of electricity to consumers elsewhere in the country.

India’s plan is to use scale to drive down solar costs and produce power from at least four of these so-called ultra-mega projects at a maximum of 5,500 rupees a megawatt-hour – that is about 32 per cent below the global average for solar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and well below the average for coal-fired power generation.

The land used for the projects will also be subsidised by the government to keep project costs low.

Separately, India also plans to auction 1,500MW of PV capacity in its biggest tender yet, the final guidelines of which will be issued this month. The first 750MW are expected to be awarded in bidding by the end of September, according to the state-run power trader overseeing the process, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd.

The nation also has a five-year solar lighting goal – a pledge from the newly elected Indian PM, Narendra Modi, that every home would be able to run at least one light bulb by 2019, powered by solar.

Top image via Wikipedia

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson