The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE) has published the performance data for 6 grid connected solar PV plants in India. This data is extremely useful for investors and project developers who are keen on setting up solar plants in India.
Resource assessment is the first step in evaluating the feasibility of a renewable energy power project. In case of Solar energy, the solar irradiation data for a particular location is one of the most critical factor that determines the viability of a project. In India, even though there is enough data on solar irradiation based on satellite imagery, long term irradiation measurement from ground stations is unavailable. In addition, since the Indian solar sector is very nascent, there is also not enough performance data from existing power projects that can be used as a benchmark. This non-availability of reliable solar resource database is cited as one of the major reasons why banks and other lenders are hesitant in financing solar power projects.
MNRE has taken the initiative to address this concern by providing the solar irradiation data from satellite imagery by tying up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA. It has also entrusted the task of setting up 50 ground stations spread across the country to measure solar irradiation to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology(C-WET). In its latest move to help project developers understand the performance of solar PV power plants in India, the MNRE has released the data from 6 grid connected solar projects spread across the country.
The 6 projects are diverse in terms of
- Location –The plants are spread across the country(The name of the project developer is given in the bracket)
- North - Punjab(Azure Power)
- North-West – Rajasthan(Reliance Industries)
- East – West Bengal(West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited-WBGEDCL)
- Central India – Chandrapur, Maharashtra(Mahagenco)
- South-East – Andhra Pradesh(Sri Power)
- South – Tamil Nadu(Saphire Industrial Infrastructures Pvt Limited)
- Technology – The following PV technologies are used in these plants
- Crystalline Silicon
- Amorphous Silicon(Thin Film)
- Cadmium Telluride(Thin Film)
- Concentrating PV
- A mix of some of these
- Plant Size – The plant sizes of these projects are 1 MW, 2 MW and 5 MW
4 out of the 6 plants have completed 1 year of operations and the net capacity utilization factor(CUF) for the entire year is available.
Key highlights of the performance data:
- The plant in Rajasthan had the highest annual CUF of 18.80%
- The plant in Punjab had a CUF of 16.92% followed by the plant in Maharashtra with a CUF of 15.39%
- The first plant in the country, which is in West Bengal, had a CUF of only 12.29%.
- The peak CUF for all the plants was achieved during the summer months of March to May. During this period, plants achieved CUFs in the range of 20.21% and 23.63%.
- The highest CUF recorded in the country so far was by the Rajasthan plant(23.63%) during March 2011 and it uses crystalline silicon technology. (The plant also has a few kWp of thin film and CPV technologies)
Further analysis of the data provides more interesting insights that will help project developers in site selection and technology selection better. The entire MNRE document can be downloaded from http://mnre.gov.in/pdf/Grid-Solar-Demo-Performance.pdf .