Rooftop solar installations are slowly making inroads in India lately as compared to many developed nations where the deployments are far larger in scale. Rooftop solar’s potential has been marred due to lack of general awareness besides other hurdles like inconsistent policies and DISCOMs’ reluctance to support rooftop solar installations.
The rooftop solar segment has a crucial role to play in achieving India’s solar target for 2022 besides driving the country towards sustainability and reducing the overall cost of power consumption.
In 2019, India added ~1.1 GW of solar rooftop capacity, a 33% decline compared to 2018 installations. As per Mercom India Research’s India Solar Market Leaderboard 2020 – at the end of 2019, cumulative rooftop solar installations in India reached 4.4 GW, which is only 11% of the country’s rooftop solar target of 40 GW by 2022.
The most significant advantage of rooftop solar is that it requires a one-time investment and generates steady power over two decades (the life of a rooftop solar system is 25 years). But there are many assumptions in this innocuous statement.
Most of the current rooftop solar capacity is deployed in the C&I (commercial and industrial) segment, which has been successful with the help of higher tariffs and short-payback periods. In the chase for the lowest tariffs and LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy) calculations, however, the actual performance and reliability of these installations have taken a backseat.
Quality is crucial for the rooftop owners for two reasons- they would own the system, and the system performance has a direct impact on their income since the cost of electricity will continue to increase, and the residential subsidies won’t last long.
According to Gagan Vermani, the founder of rooftop solutions provider MYSUN, “ The rooftop owner, especially on the residential side may not find the time and willingness to spend on understanding the finer nuances of solar, but they need to understand that the quality of their components and the workmanship has a direct impact on their income. If they don’t want their systems to become a liability, they need to do due diligence when adopting solar. Also, it’s the duty of the system providers to educate the end-users on the direct correlation of choosing good quality components.”
Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness when it comes to picking the right technology, which provides the best ROI (return on investment) for the life of the project.
The other issues to keep in mind is the higher-degradation rates for modules in India and higher PID (potential-induced degradation) and LID (light-induced degradation) losses that the installed systems have recorded. The higher PID losses in India can be attributed to many factors, both at the component level and the workmanship level. The question that the rooftop owners should ask themselves when making a purchasing decision is are there options to minimize these losses? Are there technologies in the market that can help achieve that?
“My simple assertion is if you are buying a system for the next 25 years, might as well ensure that its consistent with the newer technological innovations,” Vermani further said.
If rooftop solar is to become the primary choice of energy generation for commercial, industrial and residential segments in India, there is a growing need to extract the full potential and invest in technologies that are going to stay relevant in the coming decades and are backed by quality and reliability of both product and workmanship.
“In India, we have a unique opportunity. Since we are not the early adopters of the rooftop system on a large-scale, we can learn from the mistakes of more mature markets like Germany and Australia, both of which have mass-level adoption of solar for rooftops, especially on residential segment. The end-consumer has learned the importance of investing in quality components the hard way,” said Rohit Kumar, Director REC India, a European solar panel manufacturer with its factory in Singapore.
“We firmly believe that the rooftop systems of the future would be the ones that provide maximum ROI to the end-consumer over 25 full years and can future-proof their investment by turning it into an appreciating asset for the next 25 years rather than another bad investment,” he added.
On May 15, 2020, Mercom India, will be hosting a webinar focusing on the advanced technologies of solar for rooftop solar systems and how they play a crucial role in the life and payback of the installation. You can register for the webinar here.