July 15, 2015 By Karl Njalsson

We are excited to announce that we are working on a product aimed at monitoring the solar generation from small rooftop micro-power plants and small solar businesses. These installations are usually too small to be observed under the same radar as those used for big grid-scale PV installations. Yet these small capacity additions at multitude of geographical locations add up quite a lot to the distribution system of modern day and the importance to quantify their production is vital to ensure a reliable, cost effective distribution grid operation. Our aim with this planned product is two-fold: first measure the pulse of rooftop solar PV growth in India (a country fast growing in it’s solar capacity addition) and second, provide installers and owners of rooftop PV plants an opportunity to better understand their power plant.

India’s recently announced an ambitious target to install 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022. What would be the impact of reaching that goal?

The Economic Side

The solar sector has a potential to generate up to 1 million full-time jobs if the target 100 GW of grid-connected PV capacity by 2022 is reached. A joint study published by US-based Natural Resources Defense Council and India’s Council on Energy Environment and Water estimates that as much as 30% of these jobs would be long-term engagements. This in itself is a strong reason for establishing regulatory push and financing mechanisms for reaching this target.

Source: Clean Energy Powers Local Job Growth in India, February 2015. Credits: NRDC and CEEW.

In terms of financing of these projects, the ambitious Indian federal government eyes at a whooping $100 billion investment in this sector during the near seven year timeframe 2015-2022. A bulk of this is expected to come through foreign investments especially from China, Japan, Germany and the US while it also boosts indigenous manufacturing of the components in solar sector.

The reliance on import of fossil fuels is expected to reduce, helping boost the Indian foreign currency reserves on the side.

Energy Security

With 100 GW of solar capacity installed and considering that India receives ample sunlight about 300 days a year, around 9% of India’s electricity requirement could be met by solar alone (compared to current 0.5%). This would be a big factor in fighting the energy deficit in India, which is a result of electricity demand growth outpacing the growth in generation.

The broader benefit of solar energy would be towards the energy security and universal energy access for the people of India. Off-grid solar plants will be a huge relief to nearly 300 million Indians who currently rely on an instable grid connection.

Furthermore, decentralized generation through rooftops and small-scale solar parks would go a long way in reducing the burden on the already creaky electricity grid infrastructure. The current official figure of losses in the supply lines in most Indian states is in the range of 25-30%, almost all of it in the distribution leg of the network. Distributed generation through roof-top solar would save crores of rupees every month simply through part-offset of these losses.

The Climate Side

In the fight against global warming, this is good news. Of course the installation of solar panels does not reduce CO2 emissions per se, the coal power plants already installed will continue to run. The improvement however is evident when the increasing need for electricity is taken into account and thus the future coal power plants that will not need to be built.

The units created within the 100 GW target would cause emissions 125 mega tons CO2 extra per year if those units were created with coal plants. That is huge. It equals the whole CO2 emissions of Belgium, or almost 20% of the emissions from all the world’s aviation.

Sheer Size

As has been shown the impact of those 100 GW installed will be considerable. Before concluding let us consider, how does a 100 GW power plant look like? If the whole target, 100 GW was set up as one solar photovoltaic plant. How large would it be?

One would need to cover 1000 km2 with solar panels interestingly that is an area only a little bit bigger than Bangalore (754 km2).

Since we are playing with numbers, why not aim a little higher? How large area of would need to be covered to supply energy to whole of India?

In fact the numbers are quite surprising. The total electricity consumption of India could be met with a solar plant of the size of 5900 km2.

That area can be seen as small patch in the map of below: