The Indian solar thermal market has had no official market statistics since the residential subsidy scheme was halted in August 2014. To close the gap, Indian consultant and solarthermalworld.org contributor Jaideep Malaviya carried out his own survey to estimate the newly installed glazed collector area in financial year 2015-16. Malaviya determined the number of vacuum tubes and complete solar water heater systems which were imported to the country and asked the suppliers of absorber fins for flat plate collector for their figures. The study resulted in an estimated 1.01 million m2 of gross area (707 MWth) added in 2015-16 – a 14 % decrease compared to the previous financial year. The last two years in the chart show the annual market volume based on his calculations.
Chart source data: MNRE until 2013-14, estimates by Jaideep Malaviya 2014-15 and 2015-16
The import statistics of Legumex Impex (www.zauba.com) showed that India imported 2,709,795 solar vacuum tubes under the main HS code 84199010 between April 2015 and March 2016. Jaideep Malaviya, the author of the study, also estimated that an additional 25 % were imported as components of complete solar water heater systems. These components are not identified individually in the import statistics. He also counted imports of 572,684 tubes for financial year 2015-16 under several other HS codes (84191920, 70023900, 84191110, 84199090 and 84191910). The study puts the total figure at 3,960,151 imported tubes during the one-year period.
All tubes have a diameter of 47 mm and a length of 1,800 mm. The vacuum tube importers which participated in the study confirmed that this type of tube had an active surface area of 0.133 m2, which means that the tube area was around 526,700 m2. A factor of 1.5 is used to convert vacuum tube area into gross collector area, so that the imported tubes correspond to around 790,000 m2 of gross vacuum tube collector area.
Malaviya’s estimates also considered a survey that he conducted among manufacturers of absorber fins for flat plate collectors. The number of businesses in this segment is down to half a dozen by then. Not all of them shared detailed information, but an extrapolation of the delivered production figures amounted to an estimated market total of 220,000 m2 for financial year 2015-16.
New standards for vacuum tube collectors are hoped to limit cheap imports
All in all, the estimate of newly installed glazed collector area added up to 1.01 million m2 in 2015-16, 78 % of which was imported vacuum tube technology.
The national industry association Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) has already called the government‘s attention to this alarming rise in the number of imported solar thermal components and systems which undergo no quality inspections. Unless the authorities intervene by issuing strict standards, India may soon become a haven for sub-standard vacuum tubes, which will lead to a loss of customer trust. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is about to finish drafting standards for vacuum tube collectors, and it is hoped that these standards will be of considerable help in limiting the number of cheap imports.
Websites of institutions mentioned in the text: