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Published on June 24th, 2013 | by Giles Parkinson

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Indian Corporate Giants Turning To Solar



This article first appeared on RenewEconomy

It seems that Coal India – the world’s largest coal company – is not the only one turning to solar in India because it is cheaper than the predominantly coal-fired grid.

Tata, the country’s biggest industrial group which also has a thriving solar business, says many of the biggest companies in the country are turning to solar because it is cheaper than grid in some states. It expects this will be the case in most Indian states by 2016.

Credit: Google

Credit: Google

Companies that have already turned to solar include the country’s biggest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, and the local units of computer giants Dell and IBM.

Ajay Goel, the head of Tata’s solar division, Tata Power Solar Systems, told Bloomberg that solar installations for commercial and industrial consumers represents a market of around 80 billion rupees ($1.4 billion).

“We’re seeing a huge uptake as we get closer and closer to grid parity,” Goel told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “Corporate customers are coming to us to install solar on their rooftops or land on the side of their factories because it can provide energy cheaper than from the grid.”

Goel told Bloomberg that commercial consumers such as hotels and shopping malls, which pay the highest rates for electricity from the grid, can already generate solar power cheaper in 10 percent of India’s 35 states and territories. That will be true in 60 per cent of India’s states and territories, and in 80 per cent if government subsidies are taken into account.

Depreciation benefits can mean the investment can pay for itself within one year, and the economics improve further when taking in the cost of diesel – around twice the price of solar – which is used during blackouts, which are a daily occurrence in India’s strained electricity grid.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.



  • Jonathan_Justice

    It is awesome that solar power is getting further up over the horizon in India. We should recognize that three factors that do not amount to much in more developed countries make the case for distributed generation more compelling in India.

    Amounts of electric power that would not make much difference at my 40 kWh a day all electric house can still make huge differences in the functionality and even basic health in a lot of other people’s houses.

    Even when the power is subject to the sun going down, being able to get more hours of power and being less subject to system-wide blackouts is of considerable value. That is why there are so many diesel generators out there backing up various users systems. As they get used less because the power is actually more expensive than solar, everybody but the oil companies wins.

    There is also a matter of unmetered electrical energy consumption. Shorter supply lines and local control reduce the opportunities for stealing electric power.

  • JamesWimberley

    In the way described here it helps the energy transition in India that the grid, a legacy nationalised behemoth, is unreliable. The downside is that the smart grid and rooftop feed-in are also mnde difficult.

    • Bob_Wallace

      All that is needed is better storage. If Eos System zinc-air batteries perform as suggested then India (and other places) could have $0.10/kWh storage which, along with panels, would make electricity quite affordable and dependable.

      What is likely is that many small grids will start appearing. (They already are.) A village will create a solar system to replace their diesel generator system, using the generator as backup.

      As things mature they may combine forces with other villages to install a shared wind turbine. Then to increase reliability they’ll enter a power sharing transmission line with another group of villages.

      It’s possible that a 21st Century grid will get built from the bottom up.

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