India expects hike in commercial and industrial rooftop solar capacity

Emerging technologies for the commercial and industrial rooftop solar market attract long term opportunities.

The commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers in India are set to accelerate their rooftop solar capacity addition this year, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and JMK Research.

This will result in new and innovative solar technology solutions which provide opportunities for businesses to save on electricity costs and contribute to corporate renewable energy targets.

“Adoption of onsite solar solutions is the low-hanging fruit for consumers that want to optimise their electricity costs or increase their procurement of renewable power,” said IEEFA India Energy Economist and Lead Vibhuti Garg.

The C&I segment, which represents about three-quarters of India’s rooftop solar market, is expected to add 1,875 megawatts of new capacity in 2021, an increase of 47% compared to the previous year when the COVID-19 pandemic slowed installation.

Garg further said that “the pandemic has increased the price sensitivity of C&I consumers who already pay higher tariffs to cross-subsidise agricultural and residential consumers. Saving electricity costs is absolutely critical for them.

“Solar module and battery prices have already fallen; and with the government’s new Production Linked Incentive scheme to boost domestic solar manufacturing, solar technology prices are expected to drop even further.”

To be able to meet their RE100 commitments, C&I consumers are expected to boost their uptake of rooftop solar with more accessible financing options and corporates who would want to switch to 100% renewable energy.

The report highlights new technological developments being explored in the Indian C&I rooftop/onsite solar space such as larger-sized, wafer-based modules which allow higher power output of more than 500 kilowatts peak; bifacial modules which produce power from both sides of the panel; battery storage; integration of solar PV with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations; and building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).

Lead Author Jyoti Gulia, founder of JMK Research, said the report provides case studies of projects in India that have applied these emerging technologies.

“Some of these solutions such as higher-wattage modules and bifacial modules offer considerable value-addition in terms of energy generation," Gulia said.

When the higher-wattage modules are used for onsite solar installations in India, plant generation increases by 1% whilst balance of system costs everything in the solar system except the modules that is reduced by 1%. Those sites with space constraints will greatly benefit from this, the report noted. 

Gulia further said that “as identified in the report’s case studies, bifacial modules increase total energy generation by 4-5% compared with a project equipped with monofacial modules, and so reduces the levelised cost of energy.”

With battery prices expected to fall dramatically to US$100 per kilowatt-hour by 2023, solar+battery storage rooftop projects are also likely to pick up the pace.

There is also a huge opportunity for rooftop solar+Battery Energy Storage Systems to replace diesel gensets, which represent 90 gigawatts of aggregate capacity in behind-the-meter applications in India.

IEEFA’s distributed energy resources specialist. Dr. Gabrielle Kuiper, saother nascent onsite technological models likely to be explored by developers in India include rooftop solar integrated with EV charging stations and the adoption of BIPV.

“Government policy initiatives are already boosting the adoption of EVs,” says Kuiper. “Combining rooftop solar with storage and EVs is a cost effective solution.

“And BIPV presents an attractive long-term opportunity for corporates that are planning to set up new commercial buildings and offices in India.”

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