The falling cost of solar is attracting interest from unlikely quarters. With its fast growing economy and thirst for energy, the Indian solar sector is taking off, with the latest development an anticipated 800 MW tender to be launched by Coal India.
The company has been sharply ramping its coal production in recent years, having mined some 494 million tonnes of coal in the fiscal year 2014/15, representing 6.9% YoY growth.
Coal India is now adding utility scale PV to its asset base, with India’s Economic Times (ET) reporting that the 800 MW tender is expected to be worth some Rs. 4,800 crore (US$70 million).
ET India notes that while Coal India’s investment in PV is "a good move," that methane emissions from coal mining will continue to climb as the company continues to ramp its mining operations.
"So if the coal miner should get really serious about reducing its carbon footprint… this is can do not just by investing in renewable energy but also by adopting better mining practices, greater use of technology to reduce the rate of forest clearing, better land reclamation, steps to reduce water contamination."
Notwithstanding this, exponents of renewable energy will hope that as India’s solar industry grows and costs continue to fall, that demand for Indian coal in the country may abate.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects between 3.5 – 4.2 GW of PV to be added in India in 2016. Bridge to India is more optimistic in its forecasts for the Indian solar market, in January forecasting that 4.8 GW could be installed this year.