In an attempt to attract financially viable storage solutions to the country, India’s state-run NTPC Ltd plans to call bids to set up a solar power project wherein electricity will be stored in batteries.
By setting up this megawatt (MW)-scale project in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, NTPC wants to usher in a game changer solution for India’s energy security efforts. Also, India’s largest power generation utility is studying the grid-scale battery storage solutions offered by Japan’s NGK Insulators Ltd. To be sure, the project will be awarded on the basis of competitive bids.
Storage of electricity is a challenge given that solar power can only be harnessed when the sun shines. To use that electricity at night, or on cloudy days, an effective and economical storage solution is required. This is where NTPC’s efforts are critical.
“We have already set up a 5 MW solar photo-voltaic power project in the Anadamans. Now, the idea is to set up a 20 MW project with an effective battery storage solution. The plan is still at a preliminary stage. It will be an international tender,” said a senior NTPC executive requesting anonymity.
Another senior NTPC executive who also didn’t wished to be identified confirmed the development
NTPC has been tasked to set up around 60MW solar power generation capacity in the strategically important Indian archipelago. This comes in the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance government’s 100 gigawatt solar generation target by 2022 requiring an investment of around Rs6 trillion. The ambitious plan is part of efforts to provide electricity to almost 280 million people who don’t have access to electricity. NTPC has been tasked to meet a quarter of this solar power generation target.
“NGK offers MW size battery but the costs are high. Also, we want a battery solution as per our specifications. It also has to be technically, economically and commercially viable,” said the second NTPC executive quoted above.
Queries emailed to spokespersons for NTPC and NGK on 14 April remained unanswered.
“We already have three plots of land in Andaman and Nicobar Islands with each parcel sufficient to support 20 MW of solar capacity,” said the first NTPC executive quoted above.
The solar strategy is at the heart of the Narendra Modi led government's ambitious target to halve the country’s energy imports by 2030. It currently costs between Rs4- 5 crore per MW to set up a solar power project.
“Research activity targeted towards storage of green energy, water preservation and ash utilization is the need of the hour,” said Gurdeep Singh, chairman and managing director, NTPC, in a 31 March statement.
NTPC has a present installed capacity of 46,653 MW and a 16% share in the country’s total installed capacity of 288,665 MW. The utility plans to have projects with a total capacity of 128,000 MW by 2032.
Experts, too, believe that such efforts will help in solving the issue of energy security.
“With solar and wind power, we have the basic problem of storage. If NTPC is going ahead with battery storage solutions, it is definitely a welcome step,” said India’s former power secretary Hari Shankar Brahma.
The country has been working towards developing an effective battery solution to solve the storage conundrum.
In an interview to VCCircle in February, renewable energy secretary Upendra Tripathy had said that his ministry has plans to start a pilot project on solar electricity storage and had called for expression of interest for the project.