Evaluating Renewable Integration and Energy Storage Opportunities In India

Feasibility studies around energy storage will help India realise the full potential of its renewable energy generation and integration plans.
Published: Thu 07 Apr 2016

India has ambitious plans to ramp up its clean energy generation in order to keep up with its growing hunger for power. The country has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with current electricity generation capacity of about 230GW to meet the needs of an over 1.25 billion population. Shocking still is the fact that over 400 million households still lack access to basic electricity so this boost in generation is critical. The government’s aims to provide up to 90% of the capital funding for building microgrids in rural areas with no access to electricity.

India is creating compelling investment opportunities in renewables for the private sector in order for the country to meet its clean energy goals. India’s RE-Invest event, held at the beginning of this year, demonstrated to the world that India’s renewables sector was open to foreign investment with 293 companies making firm commitments to invest a combined US$100 billion in 266GW of renewable energy projects in India by 2021/22. [Renewable Energy Investment Heats Up In India].

Last year, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and President Obama outlined numerous trade and investment initiatives with India at the U.S.-India Business Council Summit. Part of this plan includes an initiative to invest nearly $2 billion for priority renewable energy projects in India. USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak signed agreements with three Indian state governments to mobilize U.S. industry expertise and technologies to modernize the cities of Ajmer (Rajasthan), Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh).  Under these Memoranda of Understanding, USTDA plans to sponsor activities such as feasibility studies, pilot projects and reverse trade missions that will help each state develop its smart cities. 

Energy storage to support India’s energy plans

While India’s energy storage market is still in its infancy (the IESA website lists 18 projects in operation or under construction, more than half pumped hydro storage), the potential is certainly there and is attracting a great deal of interest from around the world.

The country certainly understands that in order to create a modern grid, advanced energy storage systems will have to play a major role. Recent announcements by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Power Grid Corporation have poised the country to adopt the energy storage revolution.[India Poised To Join Energy Storage Revolution.]

MNRE has announced its support for demonstration projects to assess the feasibility of energy storage technologies for both small-scale and grid-connected MW-scale renewable energy applications. MNRE recognises the need to develop technical knowledge and economic and market insights as well as generating awareness amongst users.

Feasibility of energy storage

It is these feasibility projects that will support India’s focus on renewable energy utilization from the climate change and energy security perspectives. These projects will help demonstrate how the grid can absorb a large penetration of variable wind and solar PV generation.

One such company, IL&FS Energy Development Company Limited (IL&FS Energy), one of the largest wind independent power producers in India, is evaluating the development of integrated wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects with energy storage, to enable the supply of dispatchable utility-scale renewable energy to meet the Indian grid system’s needs. IL&FS Energy signed a grant agreement with USTDA to partner on the development of innovative Wind Integrated Solar Photovoltaic Energy Storage (WISES) projects. 

IL&FS Energy has chosen General Electric (GE)to examine the feasibility of integrated wind, solar and energy storage projects at its sites in Ramagiri (Andhra Pradesh) and Nana Layja (Gujarat), India.

Sunil Wadhwa, managing director, IL&FS Energy recognises that energy storage technologies are becoming increasingly critical to the integration of renewables but explains that for commercial deployment of these technologies, a robust regulatory framework needs to be in place. The flexibility and cost reductions that energy storage technologies provide to grid infrastructure would allow India to achieve an efficient, low-carbon intensity trajectory. Wadha points out that the current challenge in India is the initial high cost of technologies which should be addressed through a regulatory framework.

As part of the study, GE will design an integrated wind, solar and energy storage plant, estimate its capital and operating costs and develop a business plan that includes the viability gap funding that will be required for the commercialization of the project.

“Energy storage can be particularly helpful for integrating variable renewable generation in India since the technical infrastructure and market mechanisms available at the disposal of many other power grids are not yet available in the country. As the costs start to come down, energy storage will become an integral part of India’s grid,” said Sundar Venkataraman, technical director, GE’s Energy Consulting business. “By taking a look at the impact of renewable integration with energy storage systems on India’s power grid, we can provide valuable information to help the country best design its future grid.”

GE expects to complete the project this summer.