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Solar Insolation Map of India to be Developed by CWET as DOE,NASA Data proves Inadequate

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Finding accurate Solar insolation data is  a difficult problem faced in most countries except Europe and USA. The reason is that there is no history of solar radiation data in most countries as solar power is a relatively new technology. Most of the solar developers rely on data from NASA, DOE and European agencies which focus mostly on their domestic geography. This leads to faulty and inaccurate solar radiation data for other places which are seeing massive solar boom due to falling solar panel prices. India which installed 400 MW of solar power plants in 2011 and should see another 1000 MW in 2012 faces this problems also. There are no devices to record solar insolation in India with data coming from outside.

Note I had written earlier that Solar Radiation Data Absence is one of the major problem being faced by Indian solar developers. The government is now getting into the act with Chennai based CWET to collect solar radiation data in India. This government agency has been instrumental in facilitating the development of wind power in India making it the world’s 5th biggest wind energy market. It has been collecting wind speed information for a long time and now will collect solar insolation data as well . There are some private companies which are selling solar maps as well but a government solution seems best.

Note solar insolation data can make a massive difference in solar project returns with a 5-10% difference in solar data making a 2-3% difference in returns.

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.


Now, an obscure government agency based in Chennai is promising to change that. It hopes to deliver within two years a state-of-the-art solar atlas of India that could clear a major hurdle obstructing speedy development of solar power projects.

The atlas, which will identify the solar hotspots where the sun’s radiation has optimum intensity for power generation, will enable developers to accurately pinpoint locations for projects, according to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, which is creating the database.

The expectation is that project developers, armed with the information, will be able to predict the plant’s output with reasonable accuracy. Also, they can make a better choice of which solar technology (photovoltaic, solar thermal or any other) to use.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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