Defining roadmap – II for Concentrated solar power

CSP sector with its sustainable approach has opened several opportunities for India. This however is challenged by some key factors that must be analyzed and addressed to avoid project delays and increase investor confidence to help the CSP market in India grow:

Limited solar irradiance data: Some Phase 1 projects experienced delays and higher costs because developers needed to re-design project systems that were initially based on imprecise assessments from satellite data. For Phase 2, a coordinated discussion is needed to target additional solutions for DNI data availability and suitability in order to improve project design, meet time frames, and build market confidence.

 

Lack of trained technicians to build CSP projects: Some developers struggled to find a sufficient number of adequately trained technicians with fabrication and welding skills for CSP projects. The limited technical workforce slowed some projects. The sizeable Indian workforce with its transferable skills as a key strength with tremendous potential. This can be a very strong factor for the growth of CSP and solve scaling problems with the projects.

 

Appreciation for commercial aspects only instead of techno-commercial merits: a lack of understanding and appreciation for the distinguishing factors of the CSP technology that are mainly;

supplementing base-load requirements, supplying peak loads electricity through dispatchable power with the help of storage and being able to supply stable power with reactive component to the grid that can support the already fragile grid of the country & job creation potential has resulted into a feeling of PV being a winner in the solar race. In fact both the technologies can complement each other instead of competing by CSP adding the flexibility in the Grid to allow addition of more variable power sources like PV.

 

Financiers’ unfamiliarity with CSP: Project developers have struggled to achieve financial closure, a key milestone under the Mission’s guidelines. Although familiarity with solar (and CSP) is increasing, the involvement of banks and other financial institutions is hindered by structural issues (including power sector lending limits, financially stressed distribution companies and their resulting inability to pay for purchased power) and practical challenges (market awareness and technological understanding).

 

Difficulty in Indigenization: Escalating prices, rupee de-evaluation  and limited supplies of key CSP components like heat transfer fluid (HTF), Receiver Tubes etc have posed challenges to developers. Long lead-times and an inability by manufacturers to commit to a firm  delivery schedule have added to the uncertainty over commissioning projects.

We lack a support framework for CSP component suppliers in India, which is available to PV by way of SIPS. Unless the policy comes up with a support mechanism like non discriminatory equipment production subsidies, provision of excise exemption for solar only suppliers who cannot avail Cenvat credits; we cannot expect indigenization and cost reduction.

Power plant development experience is proving valuable: The experience of building solar energy foundation is proving valuable, especially since CSP power-block structures are similar to thermal coal-fired power plants. Less experienced developers new to the power industry have struggled to get projects off the ground. The Phase 1 guidelines require developers to at least work with experienced technology providers, but do not apply any rigid criteria regarding experience in CSP project development. This allows the players to invest and prepare for CSP plants.

 

The solutions that Phase 2 provides for the challenges will take the CSP technologies forward and curb the delays that happened in the Phase 1. The Phase 2 policies encourage CSP technologies along with other solar technologies. CSP offers unique attributes to India’s energy mix, including supplementing base-load requirements, supplying adequate reactive power, supplying peak-load electricity, and ensuring grid stability. There should be an increased involvement during the project commissioning process to independently analyze the root causes of commissioning delays on a quarterly basis, and determine which unforeseeable delays merit extensions. Additional support for this technology by way of component production incentives, project subsidies coupled with deeper understanding as regards project engineering, development and execution as compared to PV that has already traveled its development path as an industry in India. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) should establish a sub-committee to formulate and implement best practices to overcome commissioning delays, incorporating feedback from all stakeholders. Ensuring that Phase 2 guidelines strike a balance between encouraging new players to participate and attracting experienced developers can help maintain the requirement that selected developers work with experienced technology providers.

 

Godawari Green Energy Limited (GGEL) received the commissioning certificate from RREC, the Rajasthan Renewal Energy Corporation Limited, for the first commercial scale Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant of India. GGEL received the certificate on recommendation by a committee constituted by Rajasthan State Nodal Agency and authorized by the NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited (NVVN); thus endorsing the 50MW project to be officially and commercially operative with effect from 19th June 2013. Taking a giant leap towards making eco-friendly energy in India, the CSP plant features state of the art parabolic trough, the technology named Euro-trough SKAL ET-150. The plant is capable of lighting 200,000 Indian homes, while simultaneously preserving the environment. With its achievement, GGEL has been successful in building a road to sustainable energy solutions for India.

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