Indian solar capacity continues to sky-rocket

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The Indian solar capacity continues to rocket ahead, according to figures released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) that show total capacity for commissioned projects at the end of March. The figures, which preclude private commissions, were released on 1 April.

The total capacity for projects commissioned under the country’s National Solar Mission had reached nearly 2632 MW by the end of the first quarter, according to the data. This was an increase of 177.8% from its year-before sum of 947.5 MW. A little over a third of the total commissioned capacity in the country at present is in the Gujarat area.

Raj Prabhu, CEO and co-founder of Mercom Capital Group, told The Hindu, “The solar market potential remains as large as ever, even in a slower-growing economy. As power shortfalls continue, peak shortage is a critical problem that has stifled industrial growth, and back-up generation is becoming increasingly expensive. The diesel price hike of 50 paise a month since January 2013 has resulted in about 15% increase in diesel prices over the last 13 months, making solar a very attractive option.”

The largest increase in capacity had taken place in Madhya Pradesh, which saw an increase of 830.3% from 37.315 MW to 347.165 MW. MNRE’s data showed a large difference between the capacities of projects built under MNRE and state-driven projects. With the former, capacity stood at 687.8 MW while the latter came in at 1322.59 MW. The largest capacity added under MNRE was in the area of Rajasthan, which saw an increase from 178.95 MW to 730.1 MW, a rise of over 300%.

The figures reflect the government’s heavy involvement in the domestic solar industry. Two weeks ago, it was reported that MNRE was discussing plans to introduce a separate policy support scheme for Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) interested in developing their own solar PV projects. PSUs are largely government-owned and cash-rich entities.

On the international stage, the country’s National Solar Mission hit the news recently following the US government’s lodging of a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over India’s stipulation that 950 MW of solar projects tendered under the mission must use domestically-manufactured modules. In response to the US’s complaint, the Indian Prime Minister ordered that any trade probe be blocked.

Yet despite the seemingly good news, storm clouds have appeared with The National Solar Energy Federation of India complaining about the low-quality of domestically-made products.