Covid delayed 63% of India’s utility-scale solar in first quarter

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India added 989 MW of solar power generation capacity in the first quarter, taking total installed capacity to 38,894 MW by March 31. Of the new addition, 70% was utility-scale solar (689 MW) and 30% rooftop solar (300 MW), according to clean energy consultancy Bridge To India’s Q1 2020 India Solar Compass report.

The total installed capacity of 38,894 MW includes 32,176 MW utility scale, 5,740 MW rooftop solar and 978 MW off-grid solar.

As on March 31, 28,972 MW of projects were in pipeline, under various stages of development.

Covid hurts installation

Project construction was impacted severely as Covid-19 hit equipment supply chains and workforce availability.

Utility-scale addition at 689 MW was 63% down from the 1,864 MW estimate. The capacity—comprising 19 projects—was split between state government tenders (415 MW, 60%), central government tenders (257 MW, 37%), and others (18 MW, 3%).

Rooftop solar was also hit badly with only 300 MW of capacity addition in the busiest quarter of the year, according to the report.

“Effects of the pandemic were felt starting late January followed by the Chinese new year holiday and subsequent lockdown in India. The government imposed complete lockdown in commercial and business activity starting March 25”—the report stated.

“Despite the execution slowdown, tender issuance boomed in Q1 as SECI [Solar Energy Corporation of India] alone issued 9,414 MW of tenders. Total tender issuance and auctions during the quarter stood at 14,293 MW and 8,241 MW respectively”—it added.

Outlook

Even as project construction was allowed from April 20, commissioning progress is likely to slow down significantly because of equipment and labour availability constraints.

The Bridge To India report expects India to add only 500 MW utility-scale solar in the second quarter and 1,184 MW in the third quarter.

Rooftop solar market may take longer to recover as consumers prioritise core business operations and conserve cash in view of the economic uncertainty, prompting the consultancy to revise rooftop solar capacity addition estimate for the second and third quarter to 360 MW.