Ambitious Plans for Solar Thermal Technology in India

vacuum tubes in IndiaThe Indian market of vacuum tube collectors is picking up pace: Several manufacturers of flat plate collectors have started importing tube collectors from China. So far, they possess a market share of 10 to 15 %. Photo: Sudarshan Saur

After two years of slowing down, the Indian solar thermal market seems to be speeding up again. This push comes from a big subsidy programme that is part of the 11th 5-year plan for renewable energy, set up by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). 9.5 million m2 (6.65 GW) are to be installed in the six years between 2007 and 2012, of which 2.5 million m2 (1.75 GW) will be subsidised. This would mean a tremendous market growth since the annual solar thermal capacity was around 500,000 m2 (350 MW) in the last two years (see the figure below). The official number of cumulated installed area in the country is 2.15 million m2 (1.5 GW).

installed capacity in IndiaAnnual rate of installed solar thermal capacity in India: After a fast climb between 2003 and 2005, market development slowed down in the last two years. Since 2001, however, the Indian solar thermal market has still grown by 43 % on average.
Source: AEE Intec

India wants to reduce its dependence on oil, gas and coal imports. Solar thermal technology is a well-developed alternative to fossil fuels on the subcontinent. A solar water heater has the potential of saving up to 1,000 kWh/ m2 per year, depending on the location. They can have payback periods of as quick as 2.5 years.

The state is ready to spend 1,550 INR (Indian Rupees) per square metre of installed collector area for the first 2.5 million m2 of solar water heating systems. The subsidies will continue until this target is met - even beyond the end of 2008. Furthermore, hot-air solar drying systems are in the focus point of the market development programme of the state. A flat plate collector area of around 10,000 m2 has been installed for solar drying in about 50 companies countrywide, according to MNRE. Typical application areas are the drying of products like tea leaves, coffee beans, spices, cereals or seafood at temperature levels between 50 and 80 °C. The 11th plan of the government foresees another 0.25 million m2, which will be subsidised with 1,250 INR/m2, up to a maximum of 25 % of the total system costs.

Solar thermal energy for hot water and drying applications in grid-connected villages is another section in the 11th five-year plan that is considered for government aid. 1 million m2 of collector area are scheduled until 2012 and will be subsidised with 25 to 33 % of the investment costs.

See the table in the incentive programmes section for more details about the Grid-connected Village Renewable Energy Programme (GVREP).

Download the “report of the working group on New and Renewable Energy for 11th five year plan (2007 – 2012)”.

The text was written by Jaideep Malaviya, a specialist for solar thermal technology. His office is based in Pune, India. E-Mail: jaideep@malaviya.in

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