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2 January 2018

India becomes the first country to launch a floating solar power programme

The Indian government has launched an ambitious floating solar power programme in order to boost the development of the niche technology and invest in the next generation of solar power.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), which operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of India, has invited expression of interest from eligible renewable energy project developers to install 10,000 megawatts (MW) of floating solar power plants over the next three years.

When the process is completed, the government will have a clearer idea of whether the market capacity is sufficient for such projects and whether the set target is plausible or not.

“As solar PV power plants are land-intensive and in many states there are physical and legal hurdles to aggregate the land for such projects it is proposed to utilise the large water spread areas available in major reservoirs”, the notice reads.

The projects are to be developed in water areas or reservoirs all over the country with SECI buying all the power generated.

The new programme furthers the national goals of achieving 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

India is the first country to launch a national programme for the technology with the move being considered particularly ambitious. Not only will it help the nascent technology to mature, but the government’s  10,000 (MW) (GW) target, is bold even for conventional solar installations.

Floating solar power plants broke ground in 2014. The first plant launched in Korea with a capacity of just 465 kilowatts (kW). The current record is held by China after the country commissioned part of the largest floating solar plant in the world, which is set to be 150 MW. India’s largest floating solar plant to date has a mere 500 kW capacity and was commissioned at the beginning of December.

The news is not surprising as the country has shown commitment to solar power over the past few years. One state after another is switching from coal to solar power, due to increasingly evident cost benefits. On January 1st, the northern state of Punjab decommissioned a 460 MW coal-fired plant, in lieu of which local authorities are considering developing a 240 MW solar plant.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is planning on increasing subsidies for rooftop solar installations to spur further deployment of solar among consumers.  The government will offer more than $3.7 billion of financial support to the programme in place of the current policy which saw $770 million in subsidies available for rooftop solar.

The new incentive programme targets commercial, industrial, residential, government and institutional consumers. 20,000 MW of additional capacity is expected to come from the commercial and industrial sectors, while the remaining sectors are expected to bring 5,000 MW each. 

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