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India’s Solar Radiation Data Absence becomes another hurdle for Inexperienced Developers

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Solar Power in India is one of the biggest opportunities in the field of energy in the 21st century and Indian state and federal governments are strongly supporting by providing incentives and subsidies.A number of companies and startups have entered this green industry field lured by the multi billion investment potential in the coming decades.But the Solar Power field is not that easy to crack as many of the small inexperienced developers are learing to their detrminent.India has hardly any history of large scale grid solar projects with only 18 MW installed till date (compare that to India’s total electricity capacity of 178,000 MW).During JNNSM bidding a large number of small no name companies bid absurdly low amounts to win projects and many of them will now be cancelled as most of them are nowhere near financial closure.

The government has decided to cancel JNNSM licenses of companies who won projects and have failed to find debt  financing by July 9 .This is more drastic step than just fining the companies according to the conditions set out in the JNNSM.I think the companies would find this to be more suitable as they have little chance of not running into losses at the absurdly low prices bid in the JNNSM.The loser will be the Indian solar energy sector though only in the short term.State governments are pushing for solar energy with Maharashtra,Delhi,Gujarat and Rajasthan providing their own subsidies instead of depending on the central goverment.

Lack of Solar Radiation Data a Big Hurdle

Having good solar radiation data is essential for building solar power plants anywhere.USA and European Union have a well-developed insolation map so that developers and investors in solar energy have no difficulty in getting good data while planning an investment.However Indian developers are at a distinct disadvantage as there is no good primary data to go on.Solar Radiation data makes a huge difference to the economics of a project and no bank will give a loan based on incomplete data.For the inexperienced developers this has become another problem among a host of other problems.With little understanding of the technology and other factors,many of them jumped in and are now in a deep soup.However the prospects of the Indian solar energy are great even with these initial hiccups.The flushing out of the weak hands should help in strengthening the solar energy industry in India in the best traditions of capitalism.

Teething problems shadow India solar power dreams

From a lack of data and trained manpower to dealing with inexperienced investors, India’s ambitious dream to boost solar power faces a host of problems that could slow plans to zoom production from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2022.

But, despite an encouraging start, several hurdles remain, clouding the possibilities of a sunshine sector that is seen as crucial to India’s energy security plans, according to Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director of Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.

“But there are roadblocks. The biggest problem is lack of data. If you set up a large hydro project, nobody would even think of shoveling the first spade of sand from the site unless there is 40 years of data.”In the case of solar there is no primary data. There is a lot of secondary data (from meteorological offices, NASA satellite studies). From all that you can do some sort of an analysis and come to a certain educated guess about what your generation is likely to be. What we don’t have is a correlation with the actual ground-level data.””That is going to make or break the project viability, especially because the project cost is very high,” he added.This means banks and financiers of solar projects remain hesitant, not least because the field is an emerging sector where levels of uncertainty and risks are seen as high.


Abhishek Shah

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Heather

    Thanks for this post. It’s interesting that India seems to be facing a very similar problem as China. Clean energy development is moving at a faster pace than is data collection. It could be one of the biggest challenges that China faces in growing its comprehensive “green economy” plan. Perhaps you will find this post interesting on the same topic:

  2. Daniel


    Here is a very new source of solar radiation data for India.

    This source of solar radiation data for India is from new solar radiation database – SolarGIS.
    I would like to inform you that this company will change this situation in India, thanks to this new solar radiation database ( which is available already now)

    &online tools for the best site prospecting (for India available from august 2011)

    &planning of photovoltaic projects (for India available from august 2011)

    &Bankable reports for solar energy projects ( available now )

    This company you can meet at 5th. renewableenergyindiaexpo in New Delhi, 10-12 august 2011