India’s solar energy capacity has expanded by a record 5,525.98 MW in 2016-17, according to the latest figures provided by the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE).
In comparison, India had added 3,010 MW of solar capacity in 2015-16, which shows that growth nearly doubled over the past year. Cumulative solar capacity currently stands at 12,288.83 MW, against 6,762.85 MW at the end of March 2016.
Officials said the ministry has strived hard to expand solar power generation as the power, coal, renewable energy and mines minister Piyush Goyal has set such ambitious targets that the growth is impressive even if it falls short of the target. The cumulative target the MNRE had set earlier was 17,000 MW by the end of 2016-17.
“By the end of next year, our minister has committed to a cumulative target of 20,000 MW,” said Santosh Vaidya, joint secretary at MNRE. “This would mean adding another 7,750 MW in 2017-18. Once we do so, we will have reached the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) target two years in advance.”
The JNNSM had initially set a target of 20,000 MW of solar capacity by 2020. However, that was scaled upwards by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he took over in 2014, raising it to 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022.
Among the states, Andhra Pradesh added the maximum solar capacity in 2016-17 (1,294.26 MW), followed by Karnataka (882.38 MW) and Telangana (759.13 MW). Other major additions were in Rajasthan (543 MW), Tamil Nadu (630.01 MW), Punjab (388 MW), Uttar Pradesh (193.24 MW) and Uttarakhand (192.35 MW).
With this year’s additions, Andhra Pradesh now leads in cumulative solar capacity among states (1,867.23 MW) displacing Rajasthan (1,812.93 MW), which had been No. 1for the past three years. Gujarat, which topped in solar generation for many years, is now at No. 4 with 1,249.37 MW, while Telangana with 1,286.98 MW is No. 3.
As in previous years, many projects were commissioned just in time to beat the year-end deadline. Of the 5,526 MW added, only 2,803.77 MW had been commissioned till February end, but it was followed by a spurt of more than 2,700 MW in March 2017.
“These projects were ready and were only awaiting their synchronization with the grid or state approval or signing of the power purchase agreement,” said Vaidya.
Given the falling solar tariffs, use of solar energy is expected to keep increasing. “We have seen how low tariffs have fallen at bids such as the one at the Rewa Solar Park,” said Vaidya. The winning tariff at the last auction conducted for projects at the Rewa Park was Rs 2.97 per kwH for the first year, followed by small increases in subsequent years, well below the earlier benchmark price of Rs 4 per kwH for solar power.
“Renewable energy can be an energy alternative now and states can go beyond fulfilling their renewable power obligations (RPOs),” Vaidya added. However, effective scheduling and forecasting for intra-state transmission of solar power is necessary to achieve future targets successfully.