Solar panels for India’s power has $40 bn potential: Expert

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) As India moves forward in realizing the target of 100 GW of power generation through solar energy by 2022, around 40 GW is envisaged from rooftop panels, estimated at a market potential of Rs. 2,60,000 crore ($40 billion), an expert in the field has said.

Referring to the revised target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June for the National Solar Mission, Adarsh Das, CEO and co-founder of SunSource Energy – a US and India-based solar project developer – said the front-runner states for this will be Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Punjab and Maharashtra.

“The beauty of this is large residential societies and commercial establishments that set up solar projects on their rooftops, can feed the electricity generated to the grid. In the process, while they are able to generate at a very low cost, they get paid around Rs.7 per unit,” he said.

“So in the medium-to-long run the cost of installing solar projects not only gets covered but they also generate surpluses,” Das told IANS, adding some engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies also install these projects on a turnkey basis at no installation charge to the customers.

He said the electricity through diesel generators and power grid costs commercial establishments around Rs.9 a unit.

“The establishments now understand that they could save a lot of money by substituting to solar power. As the charges of electricity through grid is escalating now and then, it makes a lot of sense in investing on solar energy which do not see much jump in charges in the future,” Das said.

The targeted 40 GW of power generation through rooftop panels would entail an investment to the tune of Rs.2,60,000 crore by 2022, he said.

Asked why he was upbeat about India’s solar market, he said the announcement of National Solar Mission has changed the way the people think of generating the electricity.

“Few years ago, not many had heard about solar power, people used to think it (solar energy) doesn’t work as well as it being a costly venture. This has completely changed now,” Das said.

In 2010, India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission with a target of harnessing 20 GW of grid-connected solar power in the country by 2022. The Modi government, however, substantially revised the earlier target of achieving 20 GW capacity to 100 GW by 2022.

“This initiative of the government should be admired but it is probably an ambitious target. I expect half of the target achievable in the next seven years,” he said.

Das however advocated “more clarity” in the policy as well as impetus on manufacturing quality products at cheaper rates in the country, development of infrastructure, availability of qualified personnel and easy financing.

Currently, about 70 percent of solar power equipment is imported from China as the “product is cheaper and better quality” as compared to India, he said.

About the net metering or a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid, he said it was “still to pick up” in India. “I hope it will grow at a better rate in the future. There are technical hurdles that needs to be eradicated for it to be a popular.”

About his company SunSource Energy, he said it recently bagged a contract for “design, engineering and project management advisory” for a 100 MW solar project in southeast Asia, one of the region’s largest with the contract’s total size being A$125 million.

In India, he said the company has designed and built over 60 solar projects, with total capacity of 17 MW, across 12 states.

Das said the company is also “actively working” on developing export markets for solar photovoltaic projects in its market segment internationally, with a focus on southeast Asia and Africa.

The company was eyeing to double its revenue in the next financial year with a focus on installations of rooftop panels for commercial establishments, he said.

“We just clocked Rs.25 crore revenue in the last fiscal. This year, we will end the financial year with Rs.50 crore and the next year our target would be Rs.100 crore revenue,” he said.

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