North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and adjoining regions have seen an unusual spate of dust storms recently. In an unfortunate event that cost many lives, the recent storms in North India also exposed the low quality of solar assets installed in the country.
According to Mercom’s India Solar Project Tracker, of the ~21 GW of cumulative large-scale solar installations in India, over 3 GW of solar projects are operational in these three states.
Mercom got in touch with a number of project developers who have projects in these affected states. While some refused to comment on the issue, others said that the nature and gravity of the damage done by the strong winds are yet to be ascertained.
Sanjeev Agarwal, an executive at project developer Amplus Solar said, “The poor quality of solar plants have been built mainly to meet costs. At times, developers may not be aware of it, but if they are not paying for the workmanship, the quality of the installations should be obvious to them.”
“It’s a mix of design choices, cost-cutting, and inferior quality of products that have led to severe damage of assets by the storms. People should be more careful and not get to the point of cost-cutting when they jeopardize plant durability,” he added.
Sandstorms are not an uncommon phenomenon in northwestern India, and global warming is only going to exacerbate it in the future. It is imperative for both developers and EPC players to factor in possible weather pattern changes in their designs.
While talking to Mercom, an NTPC official commented, “None of the NTPC-owned solar assets have been compromised. Our assets are built to withstand wind speeds of 150 km/hour.”
Elaborating further, the official added, “In our scope of work, we specify each and every component that is to be utilized, resulting in higher development costs.”
When asked about the reason behind the projects being affected due to the storms, the official replied, “I have only one answer – that’s cost-cutting. Developers neglect the importance of high quality balance of systems and other materials for better profit margins. In the end, the sector pays the price.”
“It is a well-known fact that unpredictability in the weather has increased due to climate change and such weather events could become more frequent in the future. This event will likely increase the cost of insuring projects in areas where weather could be an issue. Bad weather will also expose poorly built projects and we could see more off-takers and insurers include clauses to ensure projects are built with quality materials that can withstand extreme weather events. This cost should be factored in while bidding,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.