On fixed structures versus solar trackers for the India market

I have been reflecting on my visit to Delhi a few weeks ago, and just read an insightful post by Vinay Pabba regarding challenges facing Karnataka’s grid (https://lnkd.in/gDUwYa8x). I would like to share perspectives as a former electric transmission planner – and from Nextracker Inc.’s (NXT) vantage of supporting 80 GW of global PV projects, including 5 GW in India, with our first utility scale plant there in 2015.

India is a highly dynamic solar market. With the PM’s leadership of Make In India, an enormous shift of manufacturing activity in solar has been accomplished, creating huge economic value and weaning from foreign suppliers. In NXT’s case, already over 80% of our tracker content for India is made in India (> 2000 direct jobs created), and we have 10 GW of annual factory capacity in India, ready to ship.

India’s daily electric demand for various regions is presented in attached graph (source: Grid Controller of India Limited), highlighting sharp morning and late afternoon peaks.

Unlike some mature markets, we have seen that power purchase agreements (PPAs) in India typically do not have a time-of-delivery (ToD) component, meaning a MWh delivered at noon has the same value as a MWh at 9 AM or 6 PM. This has contributed to a disproportionate amount of PV systems built with fixed structures that produce their maximum energy around noon – out of phase with demand.

A simple fix is a ToD premium to PPAs for shoulder energy, which would result in higher % of PV systems built with trackers in India, and much better match to the load curve. A second fix would be an additional premium for “firming” which would result in 2-4 hours of storage added to the PV plant.

The vast majority of the PV systems being constructed in North America and mature markets have trackers, and increasingly, storage. Now would be a great time to adjust how PPAs are structured in India to result in PV systems that better match customer energy use, and provide better resiliency to the grid. (see my original LinkedIn post, here).