India had around 6 GW of installed solar power generation capacity at the end of March 2016, and by this year, it was supposed to rise to 12.7 GW.
However, according to numbers obtained from the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), the total grid-connected solar power generation capacity in India stood at 9.012 GW at the end of December 2016.
Given that there was around 6.5 GW of capacity at the end of last financial year — against a target of 5.5 GW — the country has added only around 2.5 GW in the last nine months of 2016, less than 1 GW per quarter.
At this rate, the total grid-connected solar power generation capacity in India is likely to barely touch 10 GW at the end of March, well short of the target. This performance will be in stark contrast to how the country fared in 2015-16, when it added 3.02 GW against a target of 1.8 GW.
According to the renewed solar mission targets of 2015, India is supposed to add 7.2 GW in this year and 10 GW in 2017-18 (next year).
To meet this, the country would have to add capacity at the rate of 2.5-3.0 GW per quarter in 2017, compared to the sub-1-GW run-rate seen in 2016.
One GigaWatt is equivalent to 1000 megawatt. A typical grid-connected solar plant has a capacity of about 25-200 MW.
However, there are also larger projects, such as the 10 GW solar ‘field’ announced by Adani Group in Rajasthan two years ago. Rajasthan, home to most of India’s desert land, has a target of creating 25 GW of solar capacity by 2022, which would imply that 25% of the national mission’s target would be met by Rajasthan alone.
Solar at present accounts for only a small part of India’s total energy map.
India is estimated to have a total of 225 GW of coal- and gas-fired power capacity at present, compared to 9 GW in grid-connected solar. Besides, the effective utilization of solar power plants is only a very small part of the total rated capacity, unlike in coal, where plants can run at 80-90% load.
Solar plants produce only 12%-16% of their rated capacity due to variability in sun light throughout the day.
The production record under National Solar Mission is, however, higher at 16.28% to 21.75% due to the higher rate of solar insolation received by India compared to countries like Germany and Japan.
The prices at which companies in the Mission have volunteered to supply power to government utilities have crashed in recent years — reflecting a similar decline in the cost of solar equipment.
In Dec 2010, the bids were coming in at Rs 11.6 per unit (kWh). This declined to Rs 8.3 per kWh in 2011 and to Rs 4.63 last year. Earlier this month, Mahindra Renewables, Acme Solar Holdings and Solenergi Power entered into contracts with government utilities to supply solar-generated power at under Rs 3 per unit — a record for the world.
At Rs 2.97 per kWh, solar power has achieved commercial parity with coal-based power.