Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Solar/PV is just right for India

There have been significant investments in the solar/photovoltaic space in India in the recent past, and that does not look like ending any time soon.

Given the ongoing global financial crisis, and the state of the global semiconductor industry, it appears that India has bet quite successfully on the solar/PV segment. In fact, it seems that solar/PV is just right for India! In fact, it may just kick off the kind manufacturing activity India really needs.

Poornima Shenoy, president, India Semiconductor Association (ISA), says that solar/PV is right for India for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, India has among the highest solar irradiance, globally. Secondly, it is established as a low-cost producer and assembler of solar PV cells and modules. And thirdly, India has among the best quality reserves of silica in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

She adds: "At present, solar PV may not seem to be an attractive option, primarily due to high generation costs. However, in the coming years, with increases in fossil fuel prices, rising environmental concerns, and a reduction in the cost of solar PV technology, it is likely to become a major source of energy."

The ISA expects 2015 to be an important year for the solar/PV industry. Around this time, the product cost of the Indian solar PV industry is likely to match the semi grid parity (peak power) globally, and also to match the grid parity within India.

The four major segments offering maximum potential in the coming years for solar PV in India are: rural electrification -- decentralized distributed generation (DDG); grid interactive solar PV power plants; backup power for telecom (base transceiver stations); and roof-based solar PV systems.

ISA-NMCC report on solar/PV
The ISA recently released a report on the solar PV market in New Delhi with NMCC (National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council).

According to the ISA-NMCC study, of the US$71 billion invested in new, renewable energy capacity globally in 2007, 30 percent of was in solar PV. Solar PV is the fastest growing area in the energy sector, with a CAGR of 47 percent over the last five years. The grid-connected solar PV segment saw 50 percent growth in 2007.

As per the report, the solar PV industry is likely to grow four-fold by 2011. However, there are various uncertainties in the short- to medium-term on both the supply and the demand side.

On the supply side, the main constraint is the lack of available polysilicon. The demand side is limited by the quantum of incentives for solar PV.

Gradually, there will likely be improvements in technology. The decreasing cost of manufacturing could drive the preferential tariffs lower, and ongoing demand for PV products could also attract significant investment.

As for the global solar PV supply chain. Thin-film production is one of the fastest growing segments in solar. The lack of available polysilicon is limiting growth, and this has led to the emergence of thin-film technology. This technology has enjoyed substantial growth since 2005: 80 percent in 2006 and over 100 percent in 2007.