Bosch Energy and Building Solutions India
Solar power plant

India’s Off-grid Solar Dream

For the success of India's off-grid solar dream, a well-coordinated push with the help of positive policies and capital is required

Off-grid Solar
Schematic of off-grid solar PV system

To increase the usage of renewable energy across the nation, the Indian government is implementing several off-grid energy policies and recommendations. While the inherent goal here is to promote green energy and minimize waste disposal, it also requires the wider populace to opt for solar energy, bio-gas alternatives and bio-fertilizers. Bosch Energy and Building Solutions is playing its part here by facilitating the infrastructure projects that are needed to embrace these deployments. This means getting involved with designing, engineering, procurement and construction of development projects and solar plants across the country.

A key role here is expected for off-grid applications as they encompass a major portion of the country’s power needs. India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been working on expanding its National Solar Mission (NSM) over the last few years. Decentralized solar applications that work off-grid play a vital role here, especially for solar applications to provide power for rural areas of the country. While subsidies have been, and will continue to be, an important cog of the machine to get solar power to far flung areas, India needs much more technological advancement to make that happen.

A report by the World Bank and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) stated that one in three off-grid households worldwide will start using solar products by 2020. If India is to remain on track to meet this goal, the country needs all the support it can get from private players. They should be focusing on maximizing the impact and reach of rooftop panels for solar power generation, to begin with.

Residential houses with solar plant on roof

When it comes to safety guidelines, several key principles are already in place and are being enforced. These include adherences to the IEC 61215 standard and maintaining voltage of these solar systems at the 60 volts mark. As these applications will mostly be used by rural regions and villages that are far away and disconnected from bigger cities, they need to operate on fixed standards and specifications. If this is not done properly, costs will go up thanks to increasing burdens of servicing and repairs.

In a way, this can only be beneficial for the solar energy market and for consumers. Solar energy happens to be the cheapest and readily available power sources in the world, so capitalizing on it to meet energy efficiency demands should be foremost on any nation’s list of priorities. PM Narendra Modi has set an audacious goal of 100 GW of solar powered energy to run India’s economy in the next few years, and this goal is achievable with clear objectives and innovations.

Preparing the grids to handle the increased supply and also developing an off-grid distribution system that works is thus the key for India. Financially, technologically and mindset-wise, we should all be doing everything in our power to ensure that solar power becomes ubiquitous in the country. Indian policymakers should be working round the clock to make this situation as favorable and achievable for Indian users.

Light bulb with solar panels superimposed

Inviting foreign investments in this domain can also be a worthwhile strategy that can reap long-term rewards for the industry. While many investors are discouraged due to the nature of the risk involved here, creating favorable conditions for them can provide a feasible solution to the off-grid distribution issue. Social bonds and funds issued by foreign governments and private foreign players can end up a bigger than expected role here.

At the end of the day, driving down production costs needs to be the unanimous goal for the solar power industry. It will pave the way for a brighter future and one where solar energy powers the country’s biggest cities and further most villages with the same intensity and reliability.

Venugopalan C M
March 2018