Solar in India – CSP losing to PV ?

Solar PV or CSP for India? This is one of the interesting questions for which we might be starting to get the answer.

Bloomberg Businessweek has now reported that most of the CSP projects in India under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission(JNNSM)  are either getting delayed or might be scrapped. Under the Phase 1 of the JNNSM, 7 projects were awarded a total of 470 MW of CSP projects, out of which 320 MW of projects are delayed. (The Bloomberg article is available here). It may be recalled that the JNNSM had promoted Solar PV and CSP equally in the first phase of the mission, having allotted about 500 MW of projects each for PV and CSP towards the total target of 1000 MW till March 2013.

According to the report, the status of these projects are follows

1. Reliance(Rajasthan Sun Technique Energy Pvt Ltd)(100 MW) – To be completed on schedule

2. Godawari Power and Ispat Ltd(50 MW) – To be completed on schedule

3. Lanco Infratech Ltd.(100 MW) – Delayed

4. KVK Energy Ventures Pvt Ltd(100 MW) – Delayed

5. Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd(50 MW) – Delayed

6. Aurum Renewable Energy Private Ltd(20 MW) – Delayed

7. Corporate Ispat Alloys Ltd(50 MW) – Delayed

Some of the challenges cited for the successful completion of the project include

a. Developers are “unable to get heat-transfer fluid from the only two U.S. suppliers”

b. “High dust levels have been reported in the desert areas where many plants are built. The dust particles scatter the sun’s rays, reducing the direct solar radiation that can reach a plant’s receptors.”

The article also says that “solar-thermal projects are heavy engineering projects, carried out in hostile conditions, and even the most experienced firms have built only a few, and not always with perfect success,”.

Compare this with the installation of PV in India. From less than 10 MW at the end of 2009, PV installations have crossed 1000 MW during mid-2012.  One obvious reason is the economics. For the year 2009-10, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission(CERC) had set the benchmark price of Solar PV at Rs. 17 Crores/MW whereas the same for CSP was Rs. 13 Crores/MW. Last week, the CERC notified the benchmark price for Solar PV at Rs. 8 Crores/MW and for CSP at Rs. 12 Crores/MW for the year 2013-14. While CSP prices have dropped marginally, the PV price drop has been drastic. The graphic below shows the trend.

The drop in price of PV has prompted quite a few large projects in USA to switch from CSP to PV. Some of the prominent examples include the switch of the 1000 MW Blythe project in California  and the 500 MW Amaragosa project in Nevada from CSP to PV.

Very interestingly, Gujarat had allotted CSP projects to 10 developers totalling 315 MW. Some of them switched over to PV(Adani Power , Cargo Motors, Sunborne Energy , Welspun ) and the fate of the others(ACME , Electrotherm, Abengoa, IDFC, KG Design, NTPC) is not clear. (The full list is available here).

Bottomline – Despite its advantages like energy storage and smooth generation of power, CSP is slowly losing its prominence in the solar sector not only in India, but all over the world.

PS : Here is an article that argues why CPV might be better than CSP.

Madhavan Nampoothiri (126 Posts)

Madhavan Nampoothiri is the Founder and Director of RESolve Energy Consultants. He has over a decade of work experience in the energy sector including renewables and has worked in countries like the USA, China, Switzerland and India. Madhavan has a B.Engg in Mechanical Engineering(M.S. University,India) and MBA(Indiana University,USA).

Madhavan is regularly invited to speak at global level conferencesand his opinions on the renewable industry are regularly featured in media. For a detailed profile, please click here


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