THE BRIDGE TO INDIA BLOG

Intentional islanding functionality of solar PV inverters – what it is and why it can help the Indian grid

The current regulations for distributed solar PV generation in India are issued by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Currently, the regulations do not allow intentional islanding of inverters. Islanding is a mode of the inverter that allows it to operate independently of the grid. This is frequently used when the grid goes down and one requires the solar system to cater to the local loads. As of the now, the CEA mandates anti-islanding, which means that the inverter must automatically switch off, when the grid goes down.

  • Anti-islanding is an important safety feature, especially for the Indian grid, which experiences frequent down-times. This feature shuts off the inverter to prevent the solar system from energizing the grid.
  • Given India’s grid reliability, it would make sense for most owners of solar plants to run their systems as a back-up source of energy. Under current CEA regulations, this is not allowed
  • Intentional islanding allows the inverter to safely operate independent of the grid, during times of a blackout. This provides energy to consumers during a power cut and also ensures that safety is not compromised
 

Weekly update : India to seek US technology and finance assistance for 100 GW solar program

 Following the U.N. climate week, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is meeting US President Barack Obama on the 29th and 30th September 2014. According to reports (refer), one of the items on the agenda is to form a ‘working group’ that would plan the roll out of 100 GW of solar in India over the next ten years. Two key items on the agenda of this working group are likely to be: i) engagement with US institutions and companies to set up manufacturing capacities in India that will help meet India’s future demand domestically; and ii) financing India’s ambitious solar plans.

  • “Make in India” campaign, launched last week, can be a win-win for both the countries
  • Financing support from the US could lead to more rapid solar growth in India
  • An adequate policy framework in India can support solar and make it more price competitive on a large scale
 
September 30, 2014
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Cost of solar for residential sector could be as low as INR 10/kWh

The residential rooftop solar market in India has a huge potential customer base. The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is currently in the range of INR 10/kWh to 13/kWh. This is still much higher than the (subsidized) tariffs paid by households. But the two figures are rapidly moving towards convergence. For further details, please refer to ‘India Solar Decision Brief’ titled- “India’s Solar Transformation: Beehives vs Elephants” (online downloadable version available here).

  • LCOE will likely decline at around 4% per year
  • In 2015 average LCOE will be INR 11.5/kWh; in 2024, it will be INR 8.3/kWh
  • By 2023 it will be cheaper to generate solar power on site than to generate and deliver power from new coal plants
 
September 25, 2014
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Intentional islanding functionality of solar PV inverters – what it is and why it can help the Indian grid

The current regulations for distributed solar PV generation in India are issued by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Currently, the regulations do not allow intentional islanding of inverters. Islanding is a mode of the inverter that allows it to operate independently of the grid. This is frequently used when the grid goes down and one requires the solar system to cater to the local loads. As of the now, the CEA mandates anti-islanding, which means that the inverter must automatically switch off, when the grid goes down.

  • Anti-islanding is an important safety feature, especially for the Indian grid, which experiences frequent down-times. This feature shuts off the inverter to prevent the solar system from energizing the grid.
  • Given India’s grid reliability, it would make sense for most owners of solar plants to run their systems as a back-up source of energy. Under current CEA regulations, this is not allowed
  • Intentional islanding allows the inverter to safely operate independent of the grid, during times of a blackout. This provides energy to consumers during a power cut and also ensures that safety is not compromised
 

Weekly update: Tamil Nadu – an example of how the Indian solar market is stymied in processes

Around this time last year, after a lot of mid-course process changes, quick fixes and haggling, Tamil Nadu’s power generation company TANGEDCO (acting as a process manager) signed power purchase agreements for 708 MW. They had a “workable” tariff of INR 6.48/kWh and a 5% escalation (equivalent to around INR 8.3/kWh on a levelized basis). However, this tariff was rejected by the state electricity regulator (TNERC) on the grounds that it was not pre-approved by the them and all the projects stalled. Next, the electricity regulator published a consultative paper, proposing a lower tariff of INR 5.78/kWh without escalation, dashing all hopes for a quick resolution  Now, a year later, the same regulator has published a final order that offers a fixed solar tariff of INR 7.01/kWh (without depreciation benefits) and INR 6.28/kWh (with depreciation benefits) (refer).

  •  BRIDGE TO INDIA still believes that Tamil Nadu should have a strong solar market. It just makes a lot of sense for the state
  • Today India’s pipeline for state and central solar allocations is at an all-time high
  • Tamil Nadu should push more aggressively into the distributed solar market
 

India’s distribution grid is capable of handling up to 30% distributed solar without any upgrades

India is on the verge of a distributed solar PV boom. The total distributed solar capacity in India today stands at only 160 MW. However, BRIDGE TO INDIA predicts that this could reach 2.9 GW by 2018. That’s an 18-fold increase! Is the distribution grid prepared for such a rapid increase?

  •  The current distribution grid was planned for the one-way flow of power i.e. from source to the consumer. Distributed solar PV (often of rooftops) changes this by generating power at the point of consumption and feeding back into the grid
  • Solar PV is inherently intermittent and only partially predictable. In such a case, there is a risk that the tail end of the grid might experience wide fluctuations that can adversely impact the grid
  • Our research shows that this risk is manageable. The Indian grid can easily accommodate up to 30% of distributed solar PV without any major changes to the distribution grid infrastructure
 
September 22, 2014
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Small rooftop solar systems can generate 4 times the employment than utility scale projects

Utility scale projects have dominated the solar landscape in India until now. Distributed generation has remained in the backstage. But with net metering guidelines in several states, demand for distributed solar systems will increase. A recent BRIDGE TO INDIA analysis suggests that job creation will be highest in the case of installation of small rooftops. For further details, please refer to ‘India Solar Decision Brief’ titled- “India’s Solar Transformation: Beehives vs Elephants” (online downloadable version available here).

  • Jobs in manufacturing, business development, project development, administration, and design & drawing will be “sticky” – i.e. will not correlate directly with new capacity
  • Jobs in supply chain, logistics and installation & commissioning will correlate with Y-o-Y growth of installations whereas operation & maintenance jobs are directly proportional to the cumulative solar capacity
  • The total job creation potential is highest for small rooftops (“bees”) and lowest for GW-scale plants (“elephants”)
 
September 17, 2014
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Weekly Update: Is India’s National Solar Mission becoming even more ambitious?

The new government in India is considering revamping the country’s flagship National Solar Mission (NSM) and making it considerably more ambitious. The recently announced draft scheme for solar parks (refer) is only a part of this development. Next, we can expect an announcement to cancel the planned allocation of 1,500 MW. In its place, we expect a new, higher target and a more streamlined and predictable process. The plot is thickening. The government is starting to deliver on the hopes it raised.

  • The original plan under phase two of the NSM was to add 9 GW between 2013 and 2017
  • The 15 GW target might be spread across three phases of allocations. The allocation process for the first solar park could begin as early as next month
  • There is a high probability that the NSM bids will be moved online to reduce the allocation timeframe and improve process efficiency and transparency