Gigawatt scale ‘ultra-mega’ solar parks driving India’s energy transition

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India’s 1 GW-plus ‘ultra-mega’ solar parks have attracted foreign capital and top global developers to the nation. The huge sites have offered investors the chance to join a $500-700 billion (Rs38-53 lakh crore) renewable energy and grid infrastructure investment boom in the coming decade, according to a report from the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (Ieefa).

The India’s Utility-Scale Solar Parks – A Global Success Story study outlines the execution model for India’s vast sites as well as the developers working on them and the solar power price tariffs they have produced.

The ultra-mega power plant concept involves a state government or electricity distribution company providing a central grid connection and acquiring land on which PV projects can be built, shielding developers from procurement risks and related delays.

“This approach has driven economies of scale and attracted global capital into India’s renewable energy sector over the last five years, with an immediate boon, in mid-2017, of halving solar tariffs to a record low of Rs2.44/kWh ($0.032),” said report author and Ieefa analyst Kashish Shah in the study.

Utility scale solar parks in India have overcome the three major hurdles associated with renewables development in India, according to the report –the risks associated with project execution, off-takers and operations and maintenance.

Capacity

India has nine ultra-mega solar parks which are intended to boast a huge 14,693 MW of generation capacity and which are under various stages of construction. Some 6,693 MW of that figure is already operational, 3 GW is partially operational and 5 GW is under development.

Two of the mammoth sites are claimed to be the largest commissioned worldwide to date.

The Bhadla solar park, in Rajasthan, is the world’s largest installation and covers more than 14,000 acres for a generation capacity of 2,245 MW.

“It is worth looking back over the last four years to see just how far the Indian renewable energy industry has advanced,” said Shah in the report. “Indian utility scale solar parks have kick-started India’s energy sector transition. Amid myriad policy and project execution issues, India’s utility scale solar park model has firmly stood its ground.”