Invests More In Solar Technology To Improve Productivity
Fed up with constant electricity cuts and government-enforced “power holidays“, IT firm ValueLabs has turned to the sun beaming down on its head office for help. In July, it finished building a 13 megawatt solar plant -enough to power 6,000 homes -to keep the lights on and computers humming for more than 3,000 employees at its base in Hyderabad. It is even selling surplus electricity back to the grid.
“We plan to use the entire quantum of power generated from these plants in the coming years for our existing and upcoming campus,“ said Krishna Reddy, a senior ValueLabs executive.
Factories and businesses have installed over 30 MW of rooftop solar panels in the last year, data compiled by New Delhi-based consultancy Bridge To India shows. That is a small amount compared with India’s solar capacity of 2,700 MW, but demand may accelerate under Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has made renewable energy a priority.
Bridge to India forecasts compound annual growth will hit more than 60% in the next five years, as falling panel prices make installations more alluring. In a sign that even big business is warming up to alternative energy sources, India’s second-largest IT exporter Infosys is building a 50 MW solar plant in Karnataka to meet 30% of the company’s power needs.Bridge To India estimates that commercial rooftop and smaller utility plants have potential to provide up to 83,000 MW of solar energy, more than half of India’s potential solar capacity out to 2024.
“With the new government coming in, we see a clear intent to further increase allocation of solar in the energy mix,“ said Sujoy Ghosh, India head of US-based First Solar.Along with SunEdison, First Solar is among foreign panel suppliers expecting to profit from rising demand in India.
While India’s overall installed capacity has risen 20% in the past three years and peak-hour shortfalls have eased, not enough power reaches end-users due to rickety transmission lines, and when it does, supply is often fickle.
But costs are high on the whole and even early adopters say solar is only part of the answer. ValueLabs spent 1 billion rupees ($16.3 million), which it expects to make back in eight years. It is keeping its back-up generators. Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur is installing rooftop solar panels. Yet some 70% of its energy will still come from conventional sources. Today, solar power generation accounts for about 1% of installed energy capacity and a fraction of the 26,000 MW China can produce. Individual companies say falling panel prices and subsidies make solar more appealing.
Infosys says its own solargenerated power will cost it less than the 6.15 rupees per unit it pays for electricity from the grid, even after factoring in depreciation expenses. It did not say how much lower the costs were.
“The economics of doing this has improved. If you can get solar at a reasonable efficiency level…then it makes sense to have it as a main power source and have grid as a backup,“ said Kalpana Jain, senior director, Deloitte India.
More broadly, securing stable demand is also not easy a pitfall illustrated in China’s huge solar market, where insufficient subsidies and poor infrastructure mean demand has not kept pace with supply.“We want to ensure we are free from power disruptions in the future,“ said ValueLabs’ Reddy. REUTERS