SLOW START: India adds 8.3% of 2017 target solar capacity in three months

India added only 827 megawatt of solar power generation capacity in the first three months of the current financial year, indicating a slow start to the yearly program.

The addition of the first three months represents only 8.27% of the 10,000 megawatt that it is supposed to come online this year.

According to India’s ambitious solar mission, the country is supposed to reach a total of 100 gigawatt (100,000 megawatt) of solar power by 2022, primarily in the form of large solar farms supplemented by grid-connected rooftop installations.

This forms part of a larger renewable energy program that targets creating a total of 175 GW of alternate power capacity, including 60 GW from wind and 10 GW from biogas.

According to the program, India should have achieved 12.7 MW of solar capacity at the end of March 2017. However, it achieved only 12.29 GW by adding a total of 5.53 GW in the year-ended March 2017.

Out of this 5.53 GW, about 3 GW was added in just the last three months of the year (January-March).

In the new financial year which began on April 1, the country again seems to have got off to a painfully slow start.

While it should have added about 2 GW in the first three months to reach its 10 GW yearly target, it actually added only 0.827 GW.

However, given the lumpy nature of commissioning of solar plants, this may not be cause for worry, yet.

With the latest additions, India’s total installed solar power generation capacity — which excludes micro installations put up over private homes — has risen to 13.11 GW at the end of June from 12.29 GW at the end of March.

The original target for the Solar Mission was to create a capacity of 20 GW by 2022, but was enhanced by five times by Narendra Modi administration in 2015, a year after it came to power.

While one of the aims of the move to solar was supposed to be the reduction of India’s dependency on foreign countries for meeting its energy requirements, the lack of a facility to refine silicon and convert it into its crystalline form has made it dependent on imports from countries like China.

Plants to produce refined silicon from sand and to further convert it into its crystalline form are very expensive to put up, and no Indian company has come forward to put up a plant in the country so far despite the huge market.

Solar installations in the country have an efficiency level of around 19%, and produce about 1.6 units of electricity per year for every watt of capacity installed. This is considerably higher than the 14% efficiency achieved in less sunny countries such as Germany and Japan.