New Delhi’s Future Is In the Solar Rooftops
New Delhi is growing. Rapidly. Indian capital’s current economic growth rate is over 11% and is expected to remain so for the next five years. This is partially driven by its total population growth of 21% in the past decade, resulting in a population of more than 16 million inhabitants. This economic and demographic evolution has been accompanied by a significant expansion of the city’s infrastructure.
Lately, the Delhi government has committed itself to improving energy supply and public transportation. In recent years, power/energy supply has improved slightly with sustained uptime and reduced number of power cuts. However, India’s growing power deficit, rising costs and Delhi’s rapidly increasing demand for power, have ensured that the situation remains largely unstable with no sustained solution in sight.
For New Delhi, and many similar metropolitan cities, this is a difficult situation which will become even more punishing in the years to come.
The solution might be solar energy. As a locally available, environmentally friendly and increasingly viable source of power, solar can provide New Delhi with an attractive long-term solution, reducing the city’s reliance on coal and gas for power. Today, in fact, more than 50% of Delhi’s power comes from coal generation.
New Delhi experience with solar power
As the country’s capital, New Delhi is in a very good position to take the lead in supporting rooftop solar and setting an example for other Indian cities. The city also has the opportunity to showcase its commitment to a sustainable and green future, putting it in the same league as other leading global cities such as New York and San Francisco.
Currently, New Delhi has 4 power distribution utilities (companies that supply power to the end consumer): Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL), BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Together, these companies provide 100% of the power consumption needs of New Delhi. Given their cumulative expected power sales of 25 million MWh in 2013-14, they have a current requirement of 50,000 MWh of solar energy, for which they require 31 MW of installed solar capacity.
Still, the installed capacity of solar panels in New Delhi on March of 2013 was only 2.5 MW. It means that Delhi utilities have the options of either producing power from solar plants on their own, purchasing it from local solar plants, purchasing solar power from outside the state, purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or – when enforced – paying a penalty for non-compliance.
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New Delhi: there is a lot of space on the rooftops
A supposed lack of available space for solar panels in a highly urbanized and congested city like New Delhi is often considered to be a key barrier to the implementation of solar power plants. However, this holds true only if we consider the installation of large, ground mounted power plants.
In fact, the potential for rooftop-based solar PV systems are significantly higher in New Delhi.
The total area of New Delhi’s National Capital Region (Delhi NCR) is 1,483 square kilometers. If such an area were exclusively available for solar installations, it could support 123 GW of installed capacity, which at peak power production, would be more than 20 times Delhi’s expected peak power demand of 6 GW for 2013 and more than half of India’s installed capacity of 215 GW. However, 50% of Delhi’s total area – the equivalent to 700 square kilometers – is built-up and theoretically available for rooftop PV systems.
It is estimated that of the 700 square kilometers of built-up space in Delhi, 36 square kilometers (2.42%) of Delhi’s rooftop space are actually available for photovoltaic systems. This much space gives Delhi a solar potential of 3,011 MW. With this in mind, Delhi could increase its Renewable Purchase Obligation to 9.6% without having to buy solar power from outside the state or purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates systems.
The overall power generation capacity within the confines of Delhi itself stood at 1,345 MW (55% coal and 45% gas) in 2013. This left New Delhi with a shortfall of 4,297 MW from what was the expected peak demand of 5,642 MW. About 58% of the shortfall was met by purchasing power from generators located in other states.
About 12-13% of the shortfall is met by purchasing power on a short-term basis from other states and on the spot market. At the moment, India faces a high and rising power deficit, expected to be 13% by 2017. States that Delhi relies on for its additional power needs to bridge their deficits will likely be unable to meet Delhi’s continued need for power.
This leads to an obvious conclusion: New Delhi must become energy independent. By capitalizing the large potential for solar energy, it could drastically reduce its dependency on external power sources (let’s not forget about the expected price increases) as well as its vulnerability to the kind of massive grid failure that took place in July 2012.
You can read more about solar rooftop potential and benefits in a comprehensive report, titled “Rooftop Revolution: Unleashing Delhi’s Solar Potential” and released by BRIDGE TO INDIA in partnership with Greenpeace HERE.
You can also read another report, “How should India drive its solar transformation? Beehives or Elephants”, released by BRIDGE TO INDIA in partnership with TATA Solar that discusses the potential of various solar systems, including rooftop solar, HERE.