Microgrids are seen as a primary strategy for rural electrification in India, but financing remains a key issue.
Microgrids are being widely installed in India and in the newest project, US solar technology manufacturer and provider SunEdison, Inc. will install 159 kW of solar PV microgrids with battery storage for 4,875 off-grid people in six remote villages in the central Madhya Pradesh state.
Working with the Government of India's Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) and the Urja Vikas Nigam state agency, SunEdison will build, operate and then transfer the facilities to a public entity after 5 years.
Construction will begin after the seasonal monsoon rains subside in September 2014, with commissioning expected by the end of the year.
“Solar is often the most practical solution in India's remote areas and building microgrids allows for scalability as the need grows,” states Pashupathy Gopalan, president of SunEdison Asia Pacific, Middle East and South Africa. “The project isn't just about economics. We believe that a collaborative approach, where private enterprise works closely with the government sector, is a winning model for future solar development in the region.”
SunEdison is one of a growing number of companies installing microgrids in rural India.
A recent Times of India (June 7, 2014) article states that the local Mera Gao Power has electrified about 20,000 households with microgrids, while another company Minda NextGenTech has put up about 250 microgrid systems. Another company, Welspun Renewables is about to commission its first microgrid in Uttar Pradesh
With these various financial models have emerged, of which SunEdison’s is one. In Mera Gao Power’s case the company owns the system, while Minda sells the system on to an entrepreneur. However, the main barrier is access to financing to help scale operations, according to a funder, Sameer Halai, quoted in the article.
India’s Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap targets the implementation of 1,000 microgrids in villages, industrial parks and commercial hubs by 2017, increasing to 10,000 microgrids by 2022 and 20,000 microgrids by 2027. With this is anticipated electrification of all households (approximately 300,000 million people currently without access), with a minimum 8 hour supply of electricity per day by 2017, minimum 12 hour supply by 2022 and then full 24/7 supply by 2027.
With islanding capabilities the microgrids would be used to support demand management and the elimination of load shedding and blackouts.
A feasibility study for rural microgrid deployment in India has recently been completed with funding from the US Department of Energy, led by the San Diego-based General Microgrids in partnership with India’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The findings, expected to be published shortly, will be of much interest in advancing microgrid deployment in India, as well as elsewhere in Asia and in countries in Africa where village-scale microgrids are anticipated as a primary rural electrification strategy.