India gets closer to its ambitions for renewable energy as a major gap between these gets filled up.Even after the prices being low and abundant renewable energy sources, solar power still produces only 1.6% of the power generation by India. One cause is the momentary nature of solar power. Sunshine is sporadic and thus solar energy can be generated only at some fixed hours of the day. This, in turn, increases the need of storage facilities for storing energy when sunshine is not available. Yet, India has very expensive and nascent storage facilities for energy storage. Only small steps have been taken towards building utility scale solar plants that have storage facilities in India.
NLC India, a government owned mining and coal-based energy producer, is constructing India’s first utility-scale solar plant which will have its battery energy storage in the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. Currently, the islands bank upon diesel generated power for its needs; the solar plant will take its place. The plant will have a capacity to produce 20MW of energy and will be commissioned by April, 2019.
USD 19 Billion worth Mahindra Group’s arm for renewable energy, Mahindra Susten, quoted the lowest bid in the auction to set up the project for NLC India at Rs289 crore, as told by a spokesperson of Mahindra Susten. The other bidders were solar companies such as Adani and Sterling & Wilson, and energy storage companies such as Exide, renewable energy consultancy firm Bridge to India, according to the spokesperson.
NLC opened the auctions for this project in May 2017 but before this auction, NTP and Solar Energy Corporation of India held four similar auctions for projects of 35mW in states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, but later on all of them were discontinued because of high costs involved in the projects.
NLC’s project has come at a time when there is a boom in the Indian solar sector and tariffs have also fallen extremely down to Rs2.44 per unit. Currently, India has installed 13,650MW of capacities of solar plants, as per the records of Ministry Of New And Renewable Energy (MNRE). It is targeting to reach 100,000MW of capacity by the year 2022. The sector has attracted investments of more than $ 9.7 billion in 2016 and consulting firm EY listed India as the second best market for investing in renewable energy.