56% solar installations in water-scarce areas: Bridge To India

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The solar industry needs to ensure efficient use of water and justify the ‘environmentally friendly’ tag, consultants Bridge To India said.

The statement comes close on the heels of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s (MNRE) advisory to all states and solar industry associations on optimal utilisation of water for solar panel cleaning, which, Bridge To India analysts feel, is a belated acknowledgement of the increasing water risks posed by the solar sector.

The consultancy highlighted that more than half (56%) of India’s installed solar capacity is located in arid and high water-stress zones. For projects located in areas with good availability of water, wasteful use of water is a common problem.

“The problem is exacerbated by the fact that around 60% of solar installations use ground water, sometimes illegally,” it added.

Possible solutions

In the absence of use of dust-resistant modules in most installations across India, cleaning of modules is critical to reduce soiling losses, which can be in the range of 3-6% of generation.

Bridge To India said that it is common industry belief that solar modules require two cleaning cycles per month to reduce soiling losses to a level of 1%.

However, actual water consumption varies widely depending on water availability, cost of water, location of power plant and level of environmental consciousness of developers and/or operation and maintenance players, amongst other factors.

Highlighting the possible solutions, it said there are proven and affordable technologies providing water-efficient solutions including anti-soiling coatings, robotic cleaning, and hydrophobic and nanotechnology based self-cleaning, amongst others.

Anti-soiling coating and robotic cleaning are already being deployed by leading developers and engineering, procurement and construction contractors.

These solutions can reduce water consumption by 35-100% depending on the type of system used. Additional capital cost can be easily justified by power generation gains as well as savings in operational costs, Bridge To India added.