SECI Planning Two 10MW Floating Solar Projects in India

India continued its move towards cleaner energy options with the announcement that they are developing two 10MW floating solar projects, one in Kerala and one in Andhra Pradesh. The latter is expected to start construction early in the new year while the exact location for the former still has to be confirmed.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is planning to install some 325 MW of renewable energy over the next few years, mostly using solar and hybrid wind and solar installations. It’s a remarkable change for a country that has long been dependent on coal and other fossil fuels for their energy. Funding for the two floating solar projects is expected to cost in the region of US$20 million and is being part funded by the World Bank.

Solar In India

Renewables in general took a while to take off in India but the country is certainly making up for lost time. In 2015, the Government made a commitment to expand its solar plants and aim for 100 GWs of installed capacity by 2022, of which 40 GW could well come from solar rooftop installations. There’s still a long way to go and as of March this year, the country only had a little over 12 GW installed nationwide (though this is up from just 161 MW in 2010).

With poor electrical connections in rural areas, one area that does need to expand urgently in India is off-grid provision. One of the most popular products in these regions is the solar lantern which has sold in the millions as well as home solar systems that can be easily installed and run independently. The current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi also introduced the construction of a new building for the International Solar Alliance in Gurgaon.

The Problem of Rapid Solar Growth

Along with China, India is becoming a major force in the global economy. With that growth, however, comes plenty of challenges. Part of the move towards solar is because of the future energy needs of the country.

Currently they Indians consume 302 GW of energy and there are still millions who are without proper electricity in many regions. By 2030, energy consumption is expected to be at 745 GW because of the growth in manufacturing as well as the Government’s promise to provide electricity everywhere. Rapid solar growth will not only need installation of panels and the development of plants, it will require huge investment in grid infrastructure that needs to go hand in hand with expansion.

The Government has now introduced the necessary legislative and support framework to encourage rooftop solar across the country and there are currently around 1,000 installers. How successful this initiative is going to be, however, remains to be seen. As with commercial solar, there are plenty of challenges to face on the way, not least how solar can be delivered to a largely poor population in rural areas of India.

The target of 100 GW by 2022 is, indeed, ambitious. The projects at Kerala and Andhra Pradesh represents just a small part of that. Floating solar is becoming increasingly popular around the world with the largest construction currently being developed in China. The 40 MW plant in Anhui, when complete, should provide electricity for some 15,000 homes.

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