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Solar Rooftops in India to get Capital Subsidies – Pilots in Gandhinagar,Jaipur, Mysore and Thane

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Solar Power in India grew by 400% in 2011 thanks mainly to the growth of large solar farms built using government subsidies. However there are hardly any rooftop solar panels on homes in India due to lack of knowledge, government support and distribution .Solar Energy incentives in most of the developed solar markets in Europe have clearly shifted their preference to distributed small rooftop solar installations on residences.This is because it reduces the need for expensive power generation infrastructure,improves reliability and puts money in the hands of the common citizens.Spain,Germany and Italy which are the 3 biggest markets in the world have done this.India however has not paid any focus to rooftop solar installations except for Delhi.Electricity in India is not only expensive but also highly unreliable and of low quality.Low voltages and blackouts of 10 hours are not uncommon.Having a reliable home based source of power would be attractive to most people in India even at higher costs (note electricity tariffs have been outgrowing inflation).It would also lead to reduced losses in the power transmission which is the highest in the world at around 30%.The advantages of promoting residential solar is much more however the policymakers have not given enough thought with half of the subsidies going to Solar Thermal Technology which is fast losing out to Solar PV technology.India’s solar policy makes it clear that the decision makers do not have enough knowledge about the developments in this fast paced solar energy sector to make the optimum decisions.

The Policy is now shifting towards pilot projects in cities like Gandhinagar , Jaipur, Mysore and Thane . Note the Delhi government had earlier come up with a plan to provide subsidies to solar panels on homes.However that plan was shelved due to fears of corruption (which is a massive problem in all spheres and generally a given with all government programs) . Now MNRE plans to give capital subsidies for building solar plants on homes . No Feed in Tariffs will be given as they are prone to gaming in a country like India where frauds could take advantage by selling diesel power  to the power grid at higher prices defeating the whole purpose of the game.

Jaipur, Mysore and Thane have come forward to do pilot projects for grid-connected rooftop solar, Mr Tarun Kapur, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, told Business Line. “Talks are on with one or two more (cities),” Mr Kapur said.

Grid-interactive rooftop solar power plant is the ‘big story’ about the “solarisation” of India. Delhi, which had proposed a rooftop programme with feed-in tariffs as incentives, recently said it had give it up, because of the question “what if somebody produces electricity using a diesel genset and claims higher feed-in tariff meant for solar-generated power?” In contrast, Gandhinagar in Gujarat has gone ahead with the rooftop programme and has even awarded its implementation to two companies (Sun Edison and Azure).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rooftop Solar vs Large Ground Mounted Solar Plants


1) Long Delays in Permitting,Environment Clearance,Land Siting – Large Solar Farms have to go through a myriad of regulations and clearances.There have also been instances of lawsuits against solar thermal and solar pv plants in California by wildlife and environmental groups as well as local Indian tribes

2) Electricity Transmission Costs – Grid Connection leads to additional costs for solar farms while rooftop solar can use existing transmission infrastructure

3) Less Grid Stability – A Large Part of Distributed Solar is consumed locally while Farms supply 100% to the grid.That makes managing the grid difficult when solar penetration increases


1) Lower Cost and  Scale – The greater scale of these plants allows lower installations compared to smaller installations.The costs  are reduced in permitting,maintenance as well

2) Use of Disturbed Land – Solar Farms can be built on disturbed land like in Germany where they have been built on former airbases.

3)Utility Friendly – Large Solar Farms are controlled by utilities or IPPs while rooftop solar is generally in the ownership of residential owners or commercial owners.This results in less pushback from utilities which generally control tranmission and allow easier acceptance of solar energy.


Abhishek Shah

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