India’s ambitious JNNSM Plan to build 20 GW of Solar Capacity by 2022 has seen projects being awarded for 479 MW of Solar Thermal Projects under Phase-1.The Solar Project Bidding was expected to be extremely competitive and it turned out to be exactly that with dis conts of more than 30% being offered to the base price of RS 15.31 for Solar Thermal generated Electricty.Note Rs 15.31 was determined to be a decent price on which a Solar Thermal Plant Developer could get decent returns just a year ago.This means that a 30% Discount would lead to zero or very low returns for the Solar Thermal Winners.According to news reports there are 7 winners for these Solar Thermal Plants 6 of which will come up in Rajasthan which seems to be the biggest winner of these Solar Subsidy Scheme.Andhra Pradesh is the only other state to win a Solar Thermal Project.There were about 60 applicants for the Solar Thermal Part of the Phase 1 JNNSM Bidding from which these 7 have been selected.

Solar Energy Future Growth has been vastly underestimated by policy makers and analysts but private companies are recognized the huge potential.India’s JNNSM Policy which is meant to jumpstart India’s Solar Energy has drawn huge interest from both domestic and foreign companies.The number of Solar Companies in India are growing at a rapid pace attracted by the huge opportunity.While starting troubles like project financing of debt etc are present,the long term growth potential of Solar Energy in India is tremendous.Global Industrial Giants like GE,Siemens have already established or in the process of investing huge sums of money to capitalize on this Green Trend.Now French Giant Areva has joined them.Note Areva is the global leader in nuclear equipment technology and is not known for its prowess in Solar and Wind Energy.However the company is making a play in Solar Thermal Technology where it hopes to use its existing skills and knowledge.Areva had acquired US startup Ausra which had fallen on hard times earlier.However Areva has not won too many Solar Thermal Projects in the recent past.However things may change starting with India

Australia has shortlisted 8 projects with 4 Solar PV and 4 Solar Thermal Projects for its Solar Flagship Program which will be decided in 2011.BP Solar with 150 MW and Suntech/Infigen with 195 MW are on the shortlist.The other 2 companies are energy utilities which are proposing to use Cd-Te Panels ( I think from First Solar).Note both of these energy utilities are small and might face problems in fund raising and execution.The firms shortlisted for the Solar Thermal Projects don’t inspire much confidence either.The selection procedure and how the subsidy will be disbursed has ran into controversy with accusations of bias and partiality.WA has not gotten any projects while Queensland province has gotten most of the projects.The firms shortlisted have also come under fire as they don’t have much experience.Not much information on how the firms were shortlisted but these companies are definitely not the best or cheapest by a big margin.Australia has generally made a mess of promoting renewable energy with New South Wales cutting feed in tariffs sharply after giving an overly generous subsidy.The Solar Flagship Program looks like an expensive mistake in the making if it comes to fruition.

Solar PV Technology have made a huge advance in the last 2-3 years leading to a demand explosion with more than 100% growth forecast this year.Crystalline PV Technology as well as Thin Film Technology like CIGs and CdTe have reduced their costs drastically.While Solar PV still requires generous government subsidies for their growth,grid parity has come very close.Solar PV Technology has become economically competitive in parts of Italy where a unique combination of high electricity rates and sunshine have made Solar PV Technology very attractive.Costs are being reduced at more than 10% per year which would make Solar PV competitive in 2-3 years in most parts of the world.However mainstream and reputed forecasters and companies like Boston Consulting Group remain blind and ignorant to this.BCG in a recent report has said that biofuels and Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) Technology will become competitive.I have issues with both of these technologies.

California and the Federal Government have recently approved a number of big Solar Thermal Plants totaling around 2800 MW.These plants utilize Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) Technology and uses mirrors and towers instead of normal PV panels.The haste with which these plants are being permitted and approved is mainly due to the expiry of the Treasury Grant Scheme by end of 2010.According the the American Stimulus rules,only Green Projects which have broken ground or spent 5% of their costs would be eligible for the 30% Cash Subsidy.6 Huge Solar Thermal Plants have been approved with the biggest Blythe plant being the most recent.The capital costs for these plants are extremely high at around $6/watt which makes me question their economics.PV panels can be installed at around $3-3.5 /watt which is around 40-50% lower.Despite the higher capacity factors for Solar Thermal Plants and their ability to store energy for a short period,the cost difference is too large.

Abu Dhabi has got the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world with asset of over $600 Billion.The small emirate which is a part of the larger United Arab Emirates is one of the richest countries in the world due to its Oil Riches.The country had made ambitious Renewable Energy Plans setting up a Fund/Company dedicated to its Green Ambitions called Masdar.The Company has faced a number of reverses as it tried a number of things all at once in a new industry.Its “Jack of All Trades” Strategy has proven to be a failure as it lost/fired a number of top executives.Its Solar Plans have also come up a cropper as Thin Film Technology has faced a lot of reverses in recent times.The Company has tried to change tactics by concentrating now on Solar Thermal Technology partnering with Abengoa and Total in building a CSP plant near Abu Dhabi.With its Renewable Energy Arm facing a number of reverses,its plan for a futuristic,zero carbon Green Masdar City has also been scaled down.