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Solar in India Happenings – No Environmental Clearances,Government to Cancel JNNSM Allotments,Delhi Pushes Residental Solar,Lanco-Juwi 75 MW Maharashtra Solar Plant at Dhule,Mahagenco to build 150 MW

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Solar Power in India is going to be one of the biggest opportunities in the 21st century with a number of favorable supply and demand factors converging.The Indian government too has supported Solar Energy in India through the ambitious JNNSM which aims for around 20 GW of Solar Capacity by 2020 (which is too low in my view).A Number of Green Companies both domestic and foreign have already made huge plans to capitalize on this oppurtunity.Here are some of the major happenings in India’s solar sector in the last month or so.Juwi which is one of the biggest solar energy developers in Germany ( a market which has become saturated) has joined hands with Lanco Solar ( a subsidiary of  one of India’s biggest private power companies) to set up a 75 MW Solar Plant in Maharashtra winning a contract from the state power generation company Mahagenco.The contract value is Rs 884 crore which works out to be just under Rs 12 crores/MW or $2.6/watt which is extremely low even with the price of solar panels crashing in the international market.At this price the electricity generated won’t be too expensive and Mahagenco has a good deal.On the other hand  Juwi and Lanco get bragging rights to being the development team for one of India’s biggest solar plants.

Lanco Solar bags Rs.884.18 crore solar power project

Lanco Solar, a fully owned subsidiary of Lanco Infratech, Thursday said the company in consortium with Juwi Renewable India had bagged a Rs.884.18 crore ($195 million) 75 MW solar power project in Dhule district by Maharashtra State Power Generation.’The project will be fully commissioned by mid-February 2012,’ the company said in a regulatory filing.

Maharashtra government has cleared the way for Mahagenco to build a 150 MW solar PV plant in Dhule which will use 100 MW of solar crystalline panels and 50 of Thin Film Panels.The government intend to finance the plant through a mix of debt and equity with 20% equity being contributed by the state government and 80% by the German development Bank KFW (which has played  a vital role in developing Germany as the biggest solar country in the world).The Solar Plant is being touted as the biggest in the world though there are much bigger solar thermal as well as solar PV plants in the world in the pipeline .Note out of the 150 MW,75 MW has been awarded to Lanco-Juwi as mentioned at the top so it has been a really quick decision on the part of the state government ( however I wonder whether competitive bidding was done,though the government has got a really good deal).

World’s largest solar project to come up in Maharashtra

Maharashtra government today cleared the proposal by the state power generation company, MAHAGENCO, to set up a 150 Mw solar energy project in Dhule district.According to the government, this project would be the largest of its kind in the world.The state government would have 20% equity in the Dhule solar project as well as in the two other proposed projects of 1 Mw and 4 Mw in Chandrapur, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting today.The three projects would cost a total of Rs 1,987 crore, of which the state government’s investment would be Rs 397.40 crore.Messers KFW, a German financial institution, will provide the remaining funds.

Chavan stated the ‘photovoltaic solar energy project’ at Shivajinagar in Sakri taluka of Dhule district in North Maharashtra was going be the largest solar power project in the world.Out of the 150 Mw, 100 Mw of power will be produced through ‘cristline’ technology, and 50 Mw through ‘thin film technology’.The project will go on stream by March 31 next year.

Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has fixed the rate of solar energy at Rs 17.91 per Mw, however for this project, the rate would be Rs 12 per Mw.

On the state front,The Delhi government seems to be moving forward on providing a subsidy  for residential solar installations which is a good move.Note most of the government around the world are converting subsidies from ground mounted plants to rooftop solar plants because of obvious benefits.India’s federal government is still behind the curve and is mostly spending the subsidy money on big ground mounted solar thermal and solar PV plants.

Rooftop solar energy policy in Delhi soon: Dikshit

“We are soon starting rooftop solar policy for setting up solar power units on rooftops of households in the capital, where the owners of buildings will get incentives and it will be connected to the main grid,” Dikshit said here at a seminar.According to the policy, house owners can either lease out their roof to a developer, who will then set up the unit, or they can pay 30 percent of the cost of installation. The remaining 70 percent will be financed through banks.House owners will get to earn Rs.17 per unit of power produced through the solar panels, which will be directly fed into a grid. They can sell the power for 25 years.The government is working out modalities of the scheme’s benefits. The discoms may even deduct the amount the house owner earns through the solar unit from the electricity bill.

JNNSM has been always in danger of being turned into a damp squib given the low prices at which the companies were awarded solar PV and solar thermal tenders during the Phase 1 of JNNSM.Most big companies had stayed away citing unremunerative prices,problems with debt financing,problems in obtaining payments from bankrupt distribution companies etc.Now the government seems to be planning to cancel the licenses of the project developers who don’t get their debt financing in order by the deadline set.It remains to be seen whether the federal government can get its act together as the success of the First Phase will prove crucial in establishing India as the hottest destination for solar energy (pun intended)

India to Cancel Solar Permits of Companies Without Financing

India will cancel licenses for solar projects awarded to companies under its first auction if they don’t obtain loans to build their plants by July 9, an official said today.“That’s it. They’ll be over,” Deepak Gupta, secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said in an interview in New Delhi today when asked what would happen to projects that don’t meet the deadline.Rather than fining companies for delays, their project licenses will be revoked, he said.

Companies were given six months from the date of signing power purchase agreements to line up financing for their projects. Commercial banks have been reluctant to lend to the new industry on concerns the technology may not perform as expected and that projects may not get paid for the power they generate by financially troubled state electricity distribution companies.

Some good news finally for the solar developers facing an onslaught of problems.The government won’t require environmental clearances for solar power plants.Some developers had been facing problems as banks needed the clearance before sanctioning loans which make up almost 70-80% of the funding requirement.With this hurdle cleared,the solar energy plants will have less red tape to cross ( though I think it should be required for large solar plants above 10 MW in size).

No environmental nod needed for solar power projects: MoEF

In a relief for developers of solar power projects, the union ministry for environment and forests (MoEF) has clarified that no environmental clearance is required for solar PV power projects. The clarification comes in the wake of the minister of new and renewable energy (MNRE) taking up the matter with MoEF.“It is clarified that solar PV power projects are not covered under the ambit of EIA notification, 2006 and no environment clearance is required for such projects,” a memorandum issued by the MoEF on May 13, says.“The clarification is welcome as it will help developers planning to set up solar PV power projects,” said DJ Pandian, principal secretary, state energy department.

And now for the funny part,the former  head of India’s Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar does not thing that solar energy is commercially viable even after 20 GW of solar capacity was built globally last year.His bias is evident as both solar and nuclear energy require government support.If nuclear energy in the current day was commercially viable and without risks (think Fukushima) then nobody would need to lecture on the pros and cons of nuclear energy.Also why nuclear energy is inevitable for India is beyond me since the country manages to run with less than 5% coming from nuclear energy ( a situation which won’t change even in 2020 if the current nuclear energy expansion happens).

Solar energy yet not commercially viable: Kakodkar

Nuclear energy will continue to be an inevitable option for India as other alternative renewable energy sources like solar will take few more years to establish as a commercially viable technology, according to experts.

Speaking on ‘Nuclear Energy: Perceptions and Reality’ at a day-long seminar ‘Nuclear Energy in India’, hosted by the Vijnan Bharati in Mumbai on Sunday, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar explained the scientific realities while demystifying the perceptions few people have about nuclear energy.

“India needs nuclear as well as solar energy to meet its huge energy requirement but at the same time commercial technology viability has to be taken into consideration,” he said.


Abhishek Shah

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