India Solar Energy Summit

March 17, 2011 – Jen Noelken

New Delhi played host to the India Solar Energy Summit held at Crowne Plaza from February 17-18.  Backed by the World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE) and by Energy Alternative India (EAI), the summit hoped to outline productive solar energy use.  India receives 3000 hours of sun annually, which equates to over 5000 trillion kilowatts (kWh).  With an ability to harness sunlight energy, India has potential to become the largest solar energy market in the world.  With such high solar energy potential, the Indian Government created Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).  The mission promises to fulfill the biggest energy opportunity of the 21st century.

The Summit brought in over 100 attendants including senior officials, PV manufacturers and solution support.  Collaboration efforts by the attendees focused on evolving government policies, breakthrough technologies and investment strategies.  According to the India Solar Energy Summit event page, seven key issues were addressed:  1. key trends in India’s solar energy sector, 2. opportunities for different areas of the industry, 3. updates on JNNSM, 4. new opportunities and associated risks of key industrial partners, 5. strategies for financing and investment, 6. expectancy for future solar energy use in India and 7. lessons learned from Europe were discussed. 

Day one of the summit was opened by Chairperson of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) of India, Dr. Pramod Deo.  Dr. Deo spoke about the role regulators in solar energy can play in society.  He also touched on how such projects can ease barriers in the field.  Day one featured several other key speakers including Director of EAI Narasimhan Santhanam and Senior Project Manager at KfW Bank in India Andreas Thermann. 

Narasimhan Santhanam focused floor time on potential opportunities for small and medium business ventures “along the PV and CSP value chain in the current solar energy boom in India.”  Santhanam continued on by stating how solar energy production would mean overall industrial production for other areas of labor and trade.  Andreas Thermann provided a means for projects to begin by stating the German-funded KfW Bank will supply financial support as long as feed-in-tariffs through power purchase agreements are intact and the project developer has solid experience.

Several major concerns were also addressed during talks.  Director General of WISE Dr. G.M. Pillai, noted Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s target goals are inadequate to meet the Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change’s overall goal of 15% renewable energy.  Deputy General Manager, TATA BP Solar Ltd Anil Patni also brought attention to unrealistically low bids by companies to build plants.  Patni explained bidders do not realize the cost of needed technology.  He continued by recommending the government to select bids closet to actual cost, weeding out unrealistic options.  General Manager of Schott Solar AG Amit Barve added the Indian government needs to adjust the IEC-61215 standard certification.  He thinks the current standard misses critical aspects such as consistency of manufacturing, checks on supplier quality, manpower skills, manufacture’s quality procedures and a lack of quality testing.

Day two of the Summit focused on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).  Presented by Mott MacDonald’s Lokesh Jain, developers are focusing on Gujarat and Rajasthan for CSP development.  Both areas’ barren terrain provides ideal conditions for solar irradiation.  Jain stated site selections are of utmost important.  Factors such as climate conditions, terrain, grid vicinity and water network availability must be taken into account for proper structures to develop.

India’s CSP will have major hurdles to overcome for proper implementation.  A few touched on during discussions including a challenging time frame of two years, infrastructure development issues, lack of data on Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) radiation.  DNI affects productivity of thermal power plants.  The Indian government is working to install 50 radiation measurement centers.  Unfortunately, reliable data will take time to collect.

The Summit provided productive talks for solar energy in India.  With strong backing by major organizations and innovative ideas from the panel India has taken the first steps to a more sustainable country.    

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