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India’s solar power dream

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

 

Source: Indian Express

Context: Based on ‘Explained article of Indian Express’, the article talks about the challenges faced by solar PV manufacturing in India.

Direction: Just go through the article once to understand the issues. No need to make notes.

Status:

  • From less than 10 MW in 2010, India has added significant solar PV capacity over the past decade, achieving over 50 GW by 2022.
  • By 2030, India is targeting about 500 GW of renewable energy deployment, out of which 280 GW is expected from solar PV.

About Solar PV panels

A typical solar PV value chain consists of first fabricating polysilicon ingots which need to be transformed into thin Silicon wafers that are needed to manufacture the PV mini-modules.

Working on PV panel

When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electric field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.

The bigger size of the solar wafer there is an advantage in terms of silicon cost per wafer, as this effectively means lower loss of silicon during ingot to wafer processing.

 

Challenges in solar PV manufacturing in India:

  • Dependency on Imports: India’s current solar module manufacturing capacity is limited to 15 GW per year.
    • India has no manufacturing capacity for solar wafers and polysilicon ingots, and currently imports 100% of silicon wafers and around 80% of solar cells.
  • Older technology: Indian manufacturers are still dependent on older Al-BSF technology (Aluminum Back Surface Field Solar Cells) (low efficiencies of 18-19%), whereas worldwide PV cell efficiency is greater than 21%.
  • India is more of an assembly hub than a manufacturing one: Several raw materials such as silicon wafers, metallic pastes of silver and aluminium to form the electrical contacts too, are almost 100% imported.
    • India is dependent on China for the Silicon wafers (the most expensive raw material). More than 90% of the world’s solar wafer manufacturing currently happens in China.
  • Poor investment in research: India has hardly invested in creating centres for the try and test solar technologies in a cost-effective manner. E.g., IMEC Belgium or the Holst Centre in the Netherlands.
  • Challenges at the WTO: India lost the case in WTO (challenged by US PV manufacturers) over India’s import duty.

Government initiatives:

  • India has implemented a 40% duty on the import of modules and 25% duty on the import of cells
  • PLI scheme to support manufacturing capex.
  • Government has made it mandatory to procure modules only from an approved list of manufacturers (ALMM) (till now only India-based manufacturers have been approved) for projects that are contracted to state/ central government grids

What should India do:

  • Technology tie-up with global manufacturers: India will have to work on technology tie-ups to make the right grade of silicon for solar cell manufacturing
  • Move towards Atmanirbhar manufacturing:  India should move up the value chain by making components locally that could drive the price and quality of both cells and modules
  • PV panel Manufacturing parks: India needs to create industry-like centres to work on specific technology domains with clear roadmaps and deliverables for the short and long term
  • Strong industry-academia collaboration in an innovative manner to start developing home-grown technologies.

Insta Links

India’s solar capacity: Milestones and challenges

 

Mains Links

Q. India needs a Solar Waste Management and Manufacturing Standards Policy. Do you agree? Comment. (10M)

 

Prelims Links

With reference to technologies for solar power production, consider the following statements:

    1. ‘Photovoltaics’ is a technology that generates electricity by direction conversion of light into electricity, while ‘Solar Thermal’ is a technology that utilizes the Sun’s rays to generate heat which is further used in electricity generation process.
    2. Photovoltaics generate Alternating Current (AC), while solar Thermal generates Direct Current (DC).
    3. India has manufacturing base for Solar Thermal technology, but not for Photovoltaics.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) None

Answer: A

The principle behind both types of solar panels – solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal – is the same. They absorb raw energy from the sun and use it to create usable energy. In solar PV systems, this is through the creation of electricity, whereas thermal systems are used directly for heating water or air.

Both technology covert solar energy into DC. India has a manufacturing base for both Solar Thermal as well as PV cells.