Policy could enable owners to lease out roof space

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy will soon announce a policy to facilitate the setting up of 10 MW solar photovoltaic power plants on rooftops of buildings.

This was disclosed by B. Venkateswara Rao, General Manager (Technical), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA).

Rao was speaking at Solarcon 2012, a conference-cum-exhibition event of the solar industry.

The details of the policy are being given final shape by the Ministry. But Rao said that it would be a ‘rent-a-roof’ kind of project, where an owner of a roof may rent it out to a project developer. The developer would put up the solar power plant and sell the electricity to the grid.

Rao said it had not yet been decided as to in which cities the rooftop plants would come up, but he stressed the projects would come up in places that had no grid stability issues.

Gujarat rent-a-roof model

The first rent-a-roof model rooftop programme was brought out by the Gujarat government, which awarded 2.5 MW each to two developers—SunEdison and Azure Power. Under the State’s programme, these two developers would sell the power to the Gujarat distribution utility at fixed tariffs.

Business Line has learnt from one of the developers that a 2.5 MW project could well be spread across 50-60 buildings.

Rooftops—the in-thing

With the state-owned electricity distribution companies being financially weak, large, MW-scale projects have dried up. India today has 1,030 MW of solar power plants, but 680 MW of them came under a Gujarat government’s feed-in tariff-based programme.

Some more have come up under the Government of India’s National Solar Mission, which addressed the payment issue by mixing the solar power with unallocated conventional power, thereby increasing the weighted average cost of the combined electricity only marginally.

But now that unallocated power (that is not earmarked for sales to specific customers under power purchase agreements) has dried up, large project have not been coming up.

Instead, rooftop projects have become the in-thing. Although the power produced by rooftop projects is costlier than that produced by MW-scale projects, commercial establishments are coming forward to buy the rooftop power, for reasons of supply security and long term cost visibility. These are off-grid projects and as such the project developers don’t have to deal with the financially weak state distribution companies.

However, various state governments have also been announcing their own rooftop programmes. For instance, speaking at Solarcon today, the Karnataka Minister for Large and Medium Industries, Mr Murugesh Rudrappa Nirani, said that the state had identified 1,000 major buildings for putting up rooftop projects of over 100 kW each.

ramesh.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 3, 2012)
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