Modi's solar embrace in India is leaving wind power in shade

[NEW DELHI] India is set to add more solar capacity than wind power for the first time as Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks to harness the sun's rays to curb energy shortages.

Solar installations are on course to exceed 2,500 megawatts in the year though March 31, 2016, topping the 2,400-megawatt target for wind, according to interviews with officials from India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

"By next year, solar installations will overtake those for wind by several fold," Tarun Kapoor, a joint secretary in the ministry, said in an interview in New Delhi on June 8. He was referring to the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2016.

The solar pivot may take Mr Modi closer to an ambitious goal of scaling up clean energy in India fivefold by 2022, part of his push for energy security and greater control over pollution. Only a handful of Indian states have abundant wind, whereas sun bakes much of the nation around the year. The nation currently relies on dirty, coal-fired power.

"Solar can become cheaper than wind," said Anish De, a partner at KPMG near New Delhi. "As solar is getting more in focus, wind companies in India are looking to balance and expand their portfolios. Globally, wind has been existing alongside solar and growing. The same can happen in India."

For instance, Suzlon Energy Ltd, the fifth-largest wind turbine maker, plans to install 500 megawatts of solar capacity over the next five years. ReNew Power Ventures Pvt is building about 250 megawatts of solar projects.

India has built up 22 gigawatts of wind power partly through a policy of tax breaks. Modi's target for solar is 100 gigawatts by 2022 from about 4.1 gigawatts now. The goal encompasses both rooftop projects and utility-scale plants.

The premier's challenge is finding the US$200 billion the government estimates is needed to achieve a clean-energy transformation. Adani Enterprises Ltd, Reliance Power Ltd and SunEdison Inc. are among those pledging investment.

The shift towards solar echoes a global trend. Solar capacity will climb 64.4 gigawatts worldwide in 2016 versus 51.1 gigawatts for wind, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.

Solar is typically quicker to install and more predictable than wind, according to Krishnan Pallassana, executive director at The Climate Group in New Delhi.

Mr Kapoor from the renewable energy ministry said India will tender 15,000 megawatts of solar projects this fiscal year.

"If all these allocations do happen, it will be path- breaking even from the global solar market perspective," Jasmeet Khurana, a senior manager at consultancy Bridge to India, wrote in an e-mail.


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