New Delhi: The rate of rooftop solar capacity addition by commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers in India is expected to accelerate this year, as new and innovative solar technology solutions provide opportunities for businesses to save on electricity costs and contribute to corporate renewable energy targets, said a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and JMK Research. The C&I segment, which represents about three-quarters of India's rooftop solar market, is expected to add 1,875 megawatts (MW) of new capacity in 2021, an increase of 47 percent in comparison to the previous year when the COVID-19 pandemic slowed installation.
"Adoption of onsite solar solutions is the low-hanging fruit for consumers who want to optimise their electricity costs or increase their procurement of renewable power," said Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist and Lead India at IEEFA. "The pandemic has increased the price sensitivity of C&I consumers who already pay higher tariffs to cross-subsidise agricultural and residential consumers. Saving on electricity costs is absolutely critical for them," she added.
"Solar module and battery prices have already fallen, and with the government's new Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to boost domestic solar manufacturing, solar technology prices are expected to drop even further," said Garg. Other factors expected to boost uptake of rooftop solar by C&I consumers are more accessible financing options and corporates wanting to switch to 100 percent renewable energy to meet their RE100 commitments.
The report highlights new technological developments being explored in the Indian C&I rooftop/onsite solar space such as larger-sized, wafer-based modules which allow higher power output of more than 500 kilowatts peak (kWp), bifacial modules which produce power from both sides of the panel, battery storage, integration of solar PV with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
Lead author Jyoti Gulia, founder of JMK Research said that the report provides case studies of projects in India that have applied these emerging technologies. "Some of these solutions such as higher-wattage modules and bifacial modules offer considerable value-addition in terms of energy generation," said Gulia.
The report noted that when higher-wattage modules are used for onsite solar installations in India, plant generation increases by 1 percent while balance of system (BOS) costs – everything in the solar system except the modules – reduce by 1 percent. These benefits are even greater for sites with space constraints. "As identified in the report's case studies, bifacial modules increase total energy generation by 4-5 percent compared with a project equipped with monofacial modules, and so reduces the levelised cost of energy (LCOE)," said Gulia.
With battery prices expected to fall dramatically to US$100/kWh by 2023, solar+battery storage rooftop projects are also likely to pick up pace. There is also a huge opportunity for rooftop solar+Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to replace diesel gensets, which represent 90 gigawatts (GW) of aggregate capacity in behind-the-meter applications in India.
IEEFA's distributed energy resources (DER) specialist Dr Gabrielle Kuiper said other nascent onsite technological models likely to be explored by developers in India include rooftop solar integrated with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and the adoption of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). "Government policy initiatives are already boosting the adoption of EVs," said Kuiper. "Combining rooftop solar with storage and EVs is a cost-effective solution. And BIPV presents an attractive long-term opportunity for corporates that are planning to set up new commercial buildings and offices in India," Kuiper added.
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