Rush for solar panels raises eyebrows
Hyderabad: A three-member team of the Japanese telecommunications and Internet Corporation, SoftBank, is presently touring Kurnool to identify land to set up a 1000-MW solar power plant.
In association with NTPC’s business arm, NVVN Limited, they are likely to enter into a power purchase agreement in the next couple of months with the Andhra Pradesh government.
Both the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been exhibiting a lot of interest to install more than 10,000 MW of solar power in their states. Particularly, the power-starved Telangana has been looking for renewable energy and urging the Centre to help it out in its hour of need.
While the intention to stave off a crisis is undoubted, experts expressed concern on the need for relying on solar power since the plant load factor (PLF) of solar units is very less. The PLF of solar power is a meagre 20 per cent compared to 80 per cent in any thermal power units.
“Even entering into long-term power purchase agreements would burden the consumer. It has been proposed to sell power at a minimum price of '6.50 per unit to a maximum of '8, which is rather high. In the long term of 25 years of PPA period, supplying power at that rate or sometimes even more is not advisable,” said Venugopala Rao, expert on power-related issues.
“When the Chief Ministers assure that the state(s) will have a power surplus within three years, why is there a need to go in for large scale production of solar power?” Mr Rao asked.
“Further, the cost of production of solar power is comparatively more than that of thermal power by nearly '2 crore. While it costs '6.5 crore 1 MW of power through solar generation, it’s cost around '4 to 4.5 crore for thermal energy. The pollution factor is also important. The photo voltaic cells, after their life span, will have to be thrown out as e-waste which can harm the environment,” said Krishna Prasad, former chief principal of SHAR schools, Sriharikota.
Above all, the issue for land is crucial.
“People with strong political connections, who have little or no idea about this business, have applied for the contracts with an aim to get huge chunks of land at throwaway prices. The land required for producing 1 MW of solar energy is around five acre whereas for thermal units, just an acre will suffice. Perhaps, this is the reason land mafia is entering the scene,” an expert said.
Cheap Chinese goods flood market
After mobiles and electronic goods, it is cheap and substandard solar panels from China that are flooding the markets.
Unaware of their poor quality, people have been purchasing them, only to realise a month later that they had been cheated. Even government authorities have expressed their inability to stop the huge dumping of these goods, saying they cannot intervene without a clear-cut direction from the Centre.
Unable to withstand the onslaught of Chinese goods, some local manufacturers have stopped production. “We have been in the field for the past 10 years, but over the past several months, we have slowly reduced our production. We produce high quality panels, but there are no takers,” said Dhanunjaya Kadiyala, director of Thrive Solar Energy Private Limited, which is the biggest solar panel producer in the combined state and fourth biggest in the country.
While the photovoltaic goods from the neighboring country look attractive initially, they fade away because of inferior quality. “It does not mean that China manufactures only substandard stuff. The quality products are not being imported,” said Prasad V., former employee of GENCO.