The cumbersome 5MW cap imposed on developers in the first tender round of India’s National Solar Mission (NSM) will be raised to as high as 25MW in the next bidding round.
Delhi aims to have 500 MW of grid-connected PV and another 500MW of concentrating solar power in the ground by the end of 2013 as part of the NSM’s first phase.
Two future stages are to bring the total to 20 GW by 2022, as India stretches to become a global solar-energy powerhouse. Aside from a handful of existing PV projects that have been allowed into the NSM via the so-called “migration scheme”, all 20 GW of capacity will be allocated to developers through public tenders, in a bid to reduce prices and corruption.
As a result of the relatively modest sizes, as well as the extremely low bids that were submitted, many well-heeled developers that the government had hoped would participate chose to remain on the sidelines. Aside from Punj Lloyd, SunEdison and IndianOil, there were few well-known names among the 30 winners of the 5MW zones.
The government hopes that by expanding zone sizes in the upcoming second tender it will lure bigger names with deeper pockets. Technically still part of the NSM’s first phase, which runs to the end of 2013, it will include as much as 300 MW of PV capacity.
First-round winning bids came in about 30% lower than the benchmark feed-in tariff put forward by the government, meaning that some projects are likely to be uneconomic.
India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is behind an ambitious plan to tap the country’s vast solar potential, establishing the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission in January 2010. It wants the country to produce 1.3GW of renewable power by 2013, an additional supply of up to 10GW by 2017 and a total of 20GW by 2022.
CSP will be a significant part of this master plan, says MNRE director Ashwini Kumar. “We want to be one of the world’s CSP leaders, because that makes sense for India.”
The government’s efforts have won praise from Keith Lovegrove, who is the leader of the Australian National University’s solar-thermal group.
“That’s not to say there’s not a long road to follow and potentially lots of mistakes to make, but in terms of government initiative and will, they could well be leaders before we know it,” he tells Recharge, after taking part in a government-sponsored CSP workshop in Delhi.