In this week’s CSP Today op-ed, NN4Energy founder Ankit Singhvi argues why India should opt for modular deployment of proven concentrated solar power technologies.
By Ankit Singhvi
India presents a significant opportunity for solar integration and there are several key factors already working in favour of CSP implementation.
Firstly there exists a capacity of over 12000 MW of steam cycle based captive power plants spanning across industries such as cement, iron and steel, textile, sugar. Add to it biomass plants and cogeneration plants and we have a portfolio of over 20000 MW of underutilized turbine and power systems (Average PLF of 41%) with new systems beings added every year.
New conventional power plants are currently being built to meet growing demand of electricity. Solar systems can be predesigned thus making them more cost effective and efficient than retrofits.
Another crucial factor, is that most of the energy intensive industries have their own captive power plants and RPO obligations. This further augments demand for clean energy - namely solar power - generators.
To date in India, CSP solution providers have focused on large-scale plants (>50 MW)., with the objective of achieving higher system efficiency (TG block, HTF systems) and lower engineering costs.
However, smaller-scale, modular CSP plants can also achieve efficiencies via 24x7 operation of the turbine.
Parabolic trough technology is ideally suited, given its proven track record and ability to supply consistent steam quality. Additionally a robust supply chain in terms of multiple component supplier helps in wide-scale adoption and better maintenance support.
A well-designed modular system can reduce capital expenditure by 30% (savings on turbine costs and balance of plant) in today’s cost and increase the solar heat conversion efficiency by 10-15% by avoidance of intermittent operations. Combined, these can result in levelized solar tariff of Rs 7.5-8/KWh at today’s cost with proven parabolic trough technology.
Financing of these plants would be easier given lower technology risks involved, balance sheet support of plant owner (accelerated depreciation) and relatively smaller size installations.
India is uniquely positioned given the large number of captive power plants and a strong engineering talent pool to modularize CSP systems.
Solar integration can be done with existing steam cycle based power plants (Coal, nuclear, CCGT, biomass) at different stages in the process (feed water heating, direct steam generation) depending on the policy framework.
These configurations can deliver most cost competitive solar power in the due to CAPEX saving on turbine (and BOP) which can be about 25-30% and higher conversion efficiency by avoiding startup and shut down losses.
Integrated solar plants will reduce the subsidy support, build a services industry and most importantly improve the carbon footprint of existing underutilized power plants.
Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology has the unique ability to integrate with existing (steam cycle) based plants to deliver cost effective grid reliable solar power. India presents a significant opportunity for solar integration given the large number of captive power plants (steam cycle) with underutilized steam turbines and BOP system.
In addition it would increase the overall efficiency of the system resulting in lower carbon emissions. CSP solution providers need to focus on this opportunity to expand the CSP market and help set benchmark in supplying grid reliable solar power.
Policy makers and solution providers should make a concerted effort to get some projects executed on ground in the short term by way of demonstration projects. This will set benchmarks and help in standard setting for new green field facilities in an expanding power market.
About the author:
Ankit Singhvi is founder of NN4Energy, a renewable energy company focusing on grid connected solar power. The company is currently developing a 5 MW solar integration with an existing captive power plant of a cement company.
Singhvi holds a B.Tech+M.Tech from IIT Bombay and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked at McKinsey and Company and focused on sustainable development strategies for electric power sector, has interned with Dr. Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute and is currently involved in developing grid connected solar power and energy efficiency projects in India.
His articles and case studies have been published in Harvard University peer reviewed scientific journals.
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