Rooftop solar power plants are set to take off in a big way in India, many speakers at REaction, a conference of the renewable energy industry here, said. The 3-day conference is being organised by Energy Alternatives India, a Chennai-based clean-tech consultancy.

Mr Pashupathy Gopalan, Managing Director, SunEdison, said solar plants on rooftops of commercial buildings can even now produce power at costs almost equal to distribution company rates.

Residential rooftops will reach “grid parity” within two years, he said.

It doesn’t matter even if policy-makers do nothing to push rooftop solar. “Economics will take over,” Mr Gopalan said.

SunEdison has put up a 100 kW plant on the roof of SCOPE, Standard Chartered Bank’s captive BPO in Chennai. The company has not disclosed at what price it sells electricity to StanChart. However, Mr Gopalan today said it is feasible to sell rooftop solar electricity at around Rs 7 a unit. The biggest advantage in this is that electricity prices are fixed for, say, 30 years. In contrast, even if grid power is a trifle cheaper today, it is bound to go up.

Mr Gopalan said the critical aspect about residential rooftop projects is raising funds. Typically, households are not inclined to incur capital expenditure for electricity that is anyway available from the grid. But even if they want to do it, they may find it difficult to raise funds from banks, he said.

Mr Madhavan Nampoothiri, Founder and Director, RESOLVE Energy Consultants, said a unit of rooftop solar power could cost Rs 10 to produce, if the system has battery-based storage. Without battery back up, the cost would be much less.

A rooftop solar plant with “grid-tie” will not need battery back-up, but the solar plant will stop functioning if the grid goes off. However, if a diesel genset is used as a back-up for periods when grid power fails, solar power could be harnessed the most, said Mr Rajeev Agarwal, Founder & Managing Director, Ardor Green Solar and Wind Pvt Ltd, a Chennai-based company that undertakes rooftop solar construction jobs, told Business Line today.

mramesh@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 26, 2012)
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