Government of India Approves 15 GW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Projects

India grid-connected solar PV
Solar panels in India. Image courtesy of U.S. Dept of Commerce.

The Indian Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, gave its approval for the implementation of the scheme for setting up of 15,000 MW of Grid-connected Solar PV Power projects under the National Solar Mission through NTPC/ NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited (NVVN) in three tranches.

The breakdown is as follows:  3000 MW under Tranche-l under mechanism of Bundling with Unallocated Coal based Thermal Power and fixed levellised tariffs;  5,000 MW under Tranche-ll with some support from Government to be decided after getting some experience while implementing Tranche-l; and the balance 7,000 MW under Tranche-Ill without any financial support from the Government.

Successful completion of additional 15,000 MW capacity of Grid-connected solar PV power generation projects, mainly in the private sector, with largely private investment, under the National Solar Mission would accelerate the process of achieving grid tariff parity for solar power and also help reduce consumption of kerosene and diesel, which is presently in use to meet the unmet demand.

In Tranche-l, which will be Batch-II of Phase-II of the National Solar Mission, 3000 MW capacity of solar PV power plants will be based on bundling of solar power (3000 MW) with unallocated thermal power (1500 MW) in the ratio of 2:1 (in MW terms), for which the required 1500 MW unallocated thermal power has been made available by the Ministry of Power.

The bundled power will be allotted to various States that come forward to (i) provide land for setting up the solar power projects and (ii) purchase a major portion of the bundled solar power for consumption within the State (iii) ensure connectivity to the solar power project. The capacity allotted to each such State will be set up through developers, to be selected through international competitive bidding by NTPC /NVVN. Both private and government companies would be free to bid for projects.

One thousand MW capacity out of the 3000 MW under the bundling scheme will be set up on land already identified in Andhra Pradesh. The balance 2000 MW capacity under the Bundling Scheme will be allotted in other interested States that come forward.

It is estimated that implementation of Tranche-l of the scheme will entail total investment of over Rs.18,000 crore (U.S. $ 2.9 billion), all of which will be met by project developers, mainly private.

A Payment Security Mechanism / Working Capital Fund with an estimated corpus of Rs. 2300 crore (U.S. $373 million) to cover 3 months payment for bundled capacity of 3000 MW of Solar Capacity with 1500 MW NTPC Coal Power, will be set up to ensure bankability of PPAs and timely payment to developers. This will be evolved through collaborative efforts of Government of India and Solar Project Developers. The modalities for setting up of Payment Security Mechanism / Working Capital Fund will be finalized subsequently. Accruals from encashment of Bank Guarantees, penalties on developers, etc. will also go into this fund.

Some capacity will be earmarked out of the total procurement under this scheme with provisions of domestically manufactured solar cells as well as modules. The quantity to be fixed with Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) in each tender will be prescribed by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) based on the prevailing market conditions from time to time. Bids received under both the categories (one with DCR requirement and the other without any such requirement) will be evaluated and successful bidders selected independently. Further, this DCR will also be technology agnostic that is applied on both the crystalline silicon and thin film SPV cells and modules.

Background

The first Phase of the National Solar Mission (2010-2013) had a target of 1100 MW for Grid-connected solar power generation capacity, against which 1685 MW was set up in the country under various schemes. Further capacity addition of 9,000 MW comprising 3,000 MW under Central schemes and 6,000 MW under State initiatives/ other mechanisms was envisaged In the 2nd phase of the Mission (April 2013-March 2017).

Now that sufficient experience is available in India in this field and the Government is keen to expeditiously promote solar power in the country, it is proposed to give a quantum jump to development of solar power in India through market driven approach, wherein the role of subsidies and direct Government support is gradually phased out. Specifically, it is proposed to significantly enhance capacity addition in the 2nd phase itself under Central schemes through various mechanisms.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.