The western Indian state of Rajasthan recently became the second state to have an operational solar power capacity of over 500 MW. Last year, another western state, Gujarat, achieved this milestone with its aggressive solar power policy.
Rajasthan laid the foundation for India’s National Solar Mission. The state had unveiled its solar power policy, among the first in the country, a few years ago. The state had allocated a number of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal power projects under this policy. When the Prime Minister announced the ambitious National Solar Mission policy, that aims at setting up 20,000 MW grid-connected solar power capacity by 2020, all these projects were transferred to the central government’s mission.
The state boasts several firsts in India’s developing solar power market. The first solar thermal power plant in India was commissioned in Rajasthan. The project is expected to remain India’s only project using that tower technology for some years. The state also has a highly unique solar PV power plant owned by Reliance Industries Limited. The project seems to have been commissioned with an intent to test the suitability of the various solar PV technologies to the Indian conditions. The project, having a capacity of 5 MW, is based on monocrystalline polycrystalline solar panels as well as thin-film solar panels. Some of these panels use no tracking equipment while others use single-axis or dual-axis tracking. The project even has concentrated solar PV panels.
Rajasthan, along with Gujarat, also has the claim to India’s largest operational solar PV project. A 40 MW solar PV project owned by subsidiary of Reliance Power Limited is currently the largest solar power project in India along with a project owned by Adani Power Limited in Gujarat of same capacity. However, a number of solar thermal parts, mostly in Rajasthan, are set to dethrone both these projects as the largest solar power projects in the country. At least a couple of solar PV projects with over 100 MW capacity are expected to be commissioned in India over the next couple of years.
Rajasthan will soon have the highest concentration of solar thermal power capacity in the country as 400 MW capacity projects are set to be commissioned soon. These projects were allocated under the first phase of the National Solar Mission.
Gujarat and Rajasthan currently host a majority of the solar power capacity operational in India. The two states have about 88% of the total operational capacity. While Gujarat has an operational capacity of just over 824 MW, Rajasthan has a capacity of about 513 MW. The Gujarat government has executed the first phase of its solar policy and has, so far, not released details of any large-scale deployment of solar power capacity in the near future. The state may continue to concentrate it efforts on roof-top and canal-top solar power projects over the next few years.
Rajasthan, on the other hand, is expected to become the engine of growth of the Indian solar market. Blessed with significantly high solar energy resource, a vast area of barren land, and developer-friendly policies, the state may attract a bulk of the solar power capacity set to be allocated over the next three years by the central government under the second phase of the National Solar Mission. Additionally, the state plans to set up 600 MW of solar power capacity under its own policy by 2017.