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  2012 JUN Issue   |   What is Digital Magazine?  |  How to use  |  Archives  |  Subscription  |  iPad / Mobile  

The Untapped Gigantic Potential of Solar Rooftop Projects in India

In India, if a solar panel is installed on every possible roof, and used wisely with proper storage, the electricity bill will become zero and all within comfortable zone of user. The rush has just begun.

By J.P. Gupta



India is having more than 300 million rooftops. Finding a solar rooftop site here depends on understanding the full breadth of legal, regulatory and environmental issues, in particular, for large-scale projects running in MW. In domestic or residential rooftop project of KW capacity, there is no such issue and companies who want to go for such assignment, market is very vast and sky is the limit. Utility Board electricity supply availability to 1.2 billion populations on all India average basis is 50% only. This supply is also erratic, load shedding, blackouts and brownouts are rule of the day. Often when sun shines and it is hot, i.e., environmental temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius and electricity going off due to multi reason becomes unbearable to everyone. To common population at this juncture diesel is basic prime mover for generation of distributed type of electricity and sold at US$1 per Ltr (INR 45.00). The diesel generating set produces maximum 3.00 kWh of energy per Ltr. So per kWh (each unit) generator running cost is 33.33 cents (INR 15). Considering the life cycle (capex and opex) of such small generator of 1-10 kW capacity, estimated LCOE is 44.00 cents (INR 19.8). This unaffordable price for this developing country is very high and also produces multi-faced problems. Inverters meet bare basics for limited hours. Availability of power 24x7 yields enjoyment of higher living standard to the society. They are deprived of this.

This is the turning point. Middle class population has roof but no particular knowledge to harvest electricity from the sun. Such population constitutes majority across the country. In one line, it is translated as unique opportunity for rooftop projects in India. The other logic is the result of a survey conducted in the year 2010, favored the power generation through sustainability and among all renewable methods solar energy is in the limelight and abundantly available. India covers 20% of the world population in 3% land area. Land use in UP, West Bengal, Gujarat and almost all over the country has seen complex multiple problems. Looking at relative roles of ground-based and roof-mounted project, it is easy to interpret that roof-mounted solar panel is preferred and commands more premium over ground-based projects in India having the best sunshine from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for more than 320 days. Most roofs from flat to 60 degree can accommodate photovoltaic panels of any type. Shading from tree and neighbor buildings on photovoltaic panels dramatically reduces their effectiveness. The location of home or office or any other commercial premises and HNI and local climate will play into where we place our solar panels. Wind speed and salty atmosphere can also affect solar systems. There are many style and design available now in the market that works well to reduce this ill effect. Shading by any means even by bird’s feathers and shit droppings reduces performance up to 20% and one quarter of the area of the panel reduces efficiency by 70% or so, as per actual site experience gained by us in the past seven years. The panel size is correlated to our home’s energy use, space available, type of roof and many of the above stated factors. In an estimated way, each sq. ft. panel will generate 10 to 12 watt of power and this will be helpful in all senses. Assume a home owner wants 1,000 watt system so he needs about 90/100 sq. ft. area of roof panels with other permutation and combination of components. A battery backup adds about 25% to 30% cost to rooftop panels. In India, power supply differs from state to state and load shedding is a local phenomena. So it is an actuality that the majority of people have battery with their old inverter systems, and this facilitates them to charge it by solar panels and modification in the system helps them to distribute their load using maximum green energy with incremental cost. There is a word of caution here. A good installation and a poor one can both start off with the same materials, electrical equipment and wiring. It is the installation that will take these ingredients and make the solar system effective for 25 years for your rooftops, always use services of professional, bankable and reputable installers. They comply with all the requirements of IEC 61730 and IEC 61215 ed2 and also other relevant LORS. A study conducted at appropriate level at 14 States of India is quite encouraging. The detail for a nuclear family of 4 persons is considered as a common pattern of society and the study is prepared in Figure 1.



Government and Regulatory Stimulus


All governments are now tremendously encouraging this distributed way of generation of energy and rays of implementable solutions are seen like:

1. Government of India: Implementation of the program on ‘Rooftop PV & Small Solar Power Generation Programme’ (RPSSGP) for first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) till 31st March 2013.

2. Government of Rajasthan: Request for selection for setting up 50 projects of 1 MW (AC) each small solar rooftop PV plants to be connected on 11 kV level at 33/11 kV Discoms Substation in Raj. Under Rajasthan Solar Energy Policy 2011 by Sept 2011.

3. Government of Gujarat: Planning rooftop project at Ahmedabad, Gandhi Nagar, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and other cities (Residential, commercial and Industrial) (Desh Gujarat) 30th July 2011.

4. Government of Delhi: Declared on the 4th of June to promote rooftop solar and bring the policy within 3 to 4 month time.

5. Government of Karnataka: Declared to promote rooftop policy in the state of Karnataka.

6. Government of A.P.: Andhra Pradesh Government has taken major rooftop solar initiative for 20 MWp total capacity in December 2010.

7. Government of Chhatisgarh: Encouragement for power generation on rooftop solar PV dated 09.07.2010.

8. Government of Tamilnadu: On the 1st of June 2011 declared to come out with rooftop solar generation policy for residential/multi-storied houses for almost 1,000 MWp within 2 to 3 months.

9. Government of Orissa: Orissa Renewable Energy Development Agency, Bhubaneshwar has also floated tender in May 2011 for solar rooftop project.

From the above, it is seen that many state governments have either declared rooftop policy or on the verge of declaration and the rest are equally enthusiastic to tap this untouched virgin potential except Govt. of Maharashtra having dual thinking for best reason known to them and Govt. of India is planning in a big way to promote rooftop solar power generation.


Investment Sources


1. Securing attractive source of finance to propel this green power to commercial success including bridge loan and non recourse loan as per requirement of institution or society or corporation or special purpose vehicle or any entity according to eligibility through bank and other non-banking financial organization.

2. There are private financial institution and companies who have come up recently and accepted the depth of the requirement of this sector as a profitable investment providing community-based loans for the rooftop installations, etc.

3. As per practice in the Western world, some institutions will shortly introduce the lease-based rooftop project. The owner will lease out the roof for some consideration for a period of 25 years. Developer will install the system at his cost and will take away all after expiry of lease. Developer is free to generate renewable electricity and sell it to the utility and also entitled for all related benefits like CERs.


Business Plan


1. The rooftop solar is now catching the eyes of all concerned developer/integrator and getting preferential attention due to inherent quality like less requirement of fund (and no land problem) as compared to any other similar capacity land-based project with identical output as shown in Figure 2.

2. For rooftop to be an investment, the panels to save you money in the long run. The system costs a certain amount of money to install. They then make a certain amount of energy each year saving us a certain amount of money off our electricity bill. After a number of years, the system is paid off in power savings directly. There is indirect advantage like social life uplift, opportunity cost and production make up cost. After taking into account all such heads as per norms and practice the power generated by panel comes as pure profit. The years it takes to reach this ‘break-even’ point is called solar payback period. Present trend shows this period below 10 years (per MW cost in range of INR 8 Cr. And LCOE INR 11 per kWh) but everyone wants this period to be as short as possible. Rooftop installation with water jacketing has very short payback period of 5 years. With fast development of solar technology on rooftop PV/rooftop CPV/rooftop thin-film/rooftop dye-sensitized film, their mountings, racking, tracking and accessories, scaling up the production and healthy competition, this period is guessed to be universally 5 years in the next five years and per kWh around INR 4/5.

3. The appraisal report to be prepared by at least one member of Appraisal Institute. Complete positive effect of this system like securing our energy future, protection of environment, specific advantage of decentralized and distributed system in translating less requirement of compensating arrangement, economical implementable solution to energy independence, etc.

4. Selection of perfect applicable technology, their manufacturer, inspection procedure, design, installation, testing, commissioning methodology, difference between branded and non-branded equipment and system, suitability of module, cost and efficiency, PV/thin-film/dye-sensitized film/CPV, their tracking method like fix, single tracking or dual axis tracking, repair and maintenance for 25 years, life cycle cost, LCOE, etc.

5. Plan to indicate all incentives, tax relief, carbon credits, environmental objective, impact of rooftop as buffer insulation, less maintenance of roof by owner (in 10 year period food corporation lost 8 million ton wheat due to leakage of roof in the godown) and should be commercially recoverable by application of this rooftop.

6. Creation of new jobs at all levels directly and indirectly, increase of GDP, potential to adopt by utilities as well as public on distributive scale, so all eggs in one basket without much of scratching the head. This can work ON GRID with FiT and OFF GRID as well as partial load arrangement with intelligent selector depending upon load.

7. It looks simple but it is not as simple task as most people think when it comes to closer look for such new technology implementation. Down the line, you will see the invisible miles of red tape. There is always a project killing combination in the permitting process. No systematic process is published by authorities so far on rooftop projects. Their guidelines/acts are overriding each other. Sometimes the departmental officials are themselves not having experience with this new permitting system tries to give a negative thought and makes the whole machinery as inefficient. Regulatory guidelines are also confusing at times and places and vary from city to city and state to state so this is the right time when MNRE get in the game and clear all the doubts. Till 2010-2011, completed rooftop is less than 1MWp.

8. Residential, commercial and large rooftop panels are in practice for electricity generation from KW scale to several hundreds of MW. Leaders are the U.S.A., the U.K., China, Japan, Germany and Spain. There is large choice for rooftop panels, mountings, interconnection, inverter, battery and software. Cost also depends on roof structure and surroundings. This affects directly on system price and performance. Sometimes due to circumstances less option on the above has to be accepted. Japan and China have used railway rooftop and produced lacs of MWH so far. The financial analysis given by some of authorities has shown attractive payback period for their installations.

Several assumptions are required to be made in this effort while projecting the payback period, demand, etc. Assumptions related to areas are based on measurement of rooftop as per google earth site and other search engine and applicable software available in the market like www.roofestimating.com, www.metalroofing.com/applicad www.stairsoftware.com and other applicable software as well rich experience on generic software of author self developed at California. Maps of Government of India, public domain and various bulletins of several departments, municipal corporations, State Industries Development Corporations, Development Authorities of cities like DDA, JDA and MMRDA etc., geographical areas of India, Government Renewable agencies, National Housing Board, and also the study conducted by UNDP and MNRE at Gurgaon-Manesar on Roof top system in 2010 is helpful where as DNI 1000W/M2 and standard temperature 25 degrees Celsius is normal. There is a variety of rooftop module and diversity of weather and atmospheric condition and so is the technology and components available in the market hence a mean of all the above is chosen for this purpose. For present among all rooftop structure only fixed rooftop is chosen which refers to the fact that the legs of the mount only have one setting and are not adjustable. Their cost is driven by material cost of steel/aluminum and panel efficiency so mean of both is taken. Readers are advised to consider the assumption carefully while going through this article.

Roof in India is made in a special way utilizing local input available from area to area. Mounting system on the roof is varying and different at locations. Design, fabrication and construction require specific attention of developer/supplier and this changes from North India to South India as well as East of India to West part. Labor is cheap as compared to other Western part of the world. Mounts need to be modified depending upon the region, though climate is tropical. Curved and flat tile roof is seen in all parts of India along with pakka/RCC roof. For determining the moisture content of raft or roof to ascertain strength local skilled workers use their experience.

GI sheet and asbestos sheet roof is also common. In fact, state building code exists but not commonly known here and roof warranties and National roofing contractor association like these do not exist here. New buildings in Government and private sectors have sheet metal whose life can be evaluated comfortably. Now there are policies being introduced for rapid transformation and you can surely be a part of this to expand your business to success. A table is prepared to indicate the immediately available potential in India. This shows that almost 92,700 MW power could be generated on existing roofs with rooftop installations. A bird’s eye view exhibit is given in Figure 3 and 4.



The total of Figure 3 and Figure 4 is 92,700 MW (Say 92.7 GW).

In other words, if we have contiguous land of 92.7 Sq. Km. (which is impossible) it is able to generate 92,700 MWp solar power as per international standards of 1,000 Wp/M2. The beauty of this application is that power is being generated at place of consumption in urbanized area. Transmission and distribution losses are negligible. This is sustainable without emission of any harmful gases and no moving parts and no noise and ditching nuclear power. Unmistakably this alternative energy source from rooftop is the best among all.

Several Indian companies in collaboration with Germany/Spain/US solar companies are now planning to enter in this field and have taken proper step for start-up initially with institutions like Indian Railways having very large rooftop potential in thousands of MW, dispensing outlet units of gas/petrol/diesel spread all through the country totaling about nine hundred thousands, Warehousing corporations, Steel Industries, Textile Industries and all put together can generate several thousands of MWs and the list goes on for these coming solar companies to share profits out of this business. Several private Industrial groups and Industries centers having very large rooftop available freely with them are in advance stage of making up their mind for harvesting this energy. Industries look at capital expenditure versus operating expenses and how quickly they obtain their capital investment through incentives in operating expenses and costs of brown outs or down time. Many facilitator companies have recently sprung up who collects such data for preparing a ready-reckoner for rooftop developers like height, area, yard projection, HNI, architectural restriction, local permit, orientation, inspection process, financing mechanism, installation, commissioning and handing over, etc. Last but not least it is very clear that in India if a solar panel is installed on every possible roof, and used wisely with proper storage, the electricity bill will become zero and all within comfortable zone of user. The rush has just begun so we invite all to take part, contact us, and enjoy the advantage of time to reap up the profit.


J.P. Gupta is Founder and President of world’s renowned technology company, Solar Energy California, CA, the U.S.A., which has been in business since 2002. Gupta is known as encyclopedia of the solar Industry with 30+ years of rich experience. His significant contribution is the solar system with recorded lowest LCOE = 7 cents/kWh. The secret of his success is 24x7 worldwide quality service to his clients in solar jobs.


For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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