Webinar Insights: “PV Technology trends and Price Forecast for India Market”

The deflationary nature of solar tariffs in India has been quite aggressive over the years. India witnessed its record low tariff of Rs. 1.99/ unit in December 2020. PV (Photovoltaic) technology advancement leading to higher CUF or efficiency of PV systems is one of the major drivers for the fast-declining solar tariffs and therefore, the pace of adoption of solar capacity in India.

In order to capture the industry insights in relation to the ongoing dynamics around PV technology, JMK Research hosted a webinar titled “PV Technology trends and Price Forecast for India Market”. The eminent panellists in the discussion were:

  • Ms. Chris Liu, Technical Director- APAC, Longi
  • Mr. Sunil Rathi, Director- Sales and Marketing, Waaree
  • Mr. Natarajan Mani, Head- Engineering (Renewables), Tata Power
  • Ms. Harshitha S Kumar- Business Head- Microgrid and Solar PV, L&T
  • Mr. Goutam Samanta, Head PV Technology, Juniper Green
  • Mr. Shreenidhi Sharma, Manager, NTPC Limited

Ms. Chris Liu briefly outlined the global and India-specific trends and prospects in regard to PV technology. At the global level, the solar industry has been transitioning from polycrystalline cell to monocrystalline cell technology for the last 3 years. The share of mono-modules had increased to about 90% in 2020. The share of mono-facial modules in 2019 was around 50% and in 2020, the share of bifacial modules was ~30%. However, by 2025, it is expected that both mono-facial and bifacial modules would have 50-50 share in the global market. Ms. Liu also noted that Longi’s module shipment to India in 2020 consisted of bifacial modules at approx. 10% share of the entire volume. The price difference between bifacial and mono-facial modules (imported) would continue to be around 1-2 cent/Watt-peak. Remarking on the supply of glass for module production which saw global disruption in 2020, she mentioned that the price of glass have lowered about 20% as its supply is becoming stable in 2021. Further, Ms. Liu pointed out that the use of solar tracker with bifacial modules could lead to a potential increase in the energy gain by upto 15-20%. The n-type module, though more suitable for Indian climate, would not have a substantial share in the Indian market for at least next 2-3 years due to its relatively higher cost.

Mr. Sunil Rathi described the status and the pursuit of the local PV manufacturing industry. He stated that the PV manufacturing ecosystem in India is being transformed to align its offerings based on M6, M10 and M12 wafers. The M2 wafer and M2.5 wafer (introduced only last year) is being phased off in 2021. It is anticipated that the domestic rooftop solar market would be shifting to use of M6 cell-based modules from the M2.5 type in the near-term. The demand for bifacial modules is expected to rise in the residential segment of rooftop solar market. Mr. Rathi also expressed that the utility-scale solar segment is likely to shift to mono-PERC modules completely by the end of the current year. Speaking on the cost aspects of the domestically-produced modules, he noted that the bifacial modules would be priced in the range of USD 0.28-0.3/ Watt-peak and that for mono-facial modules to be a cent lesser in comparison in the near future. However, during the duty-free window (i.e. between Aug-2021 to Mar-2022), the indigenously-made mono-PERC modules would cost in the range of USD 0.26-0.28/Wp and the Chinese modules might be priced at ~USD 0.23/Wp.

Mr. Natarajan Mani shared his belief that India’s shift from poly-modules to mono-modules has had a positive effect in terms of optimizing the BOS (Balance of System) cost and attaining better focus and control over the system LCOE. The adoption of bifacial and mono-PERC modules by the industry would be a certain boon for developers and EPC players as it results in realizing lower LCOEs. The three main technologies in the industry i.e. modules, inverters and MMS (Module Mounting Structure) needs to be carefully evaluated in order to harness maximum energy from the overall solar system. Mr. Mani further asserted that there is no cookie cutter solution across the globe for having an optimized solar PV system. According to him, there are 3 critical influencers for any solar project: Site, tariff and timing of execution and lastly, landed costs of the critical equipments. Depending on the site or location of the PV plant, the necessity for solar tracker would differ. Similarly, concerning the bifacial modules, it is important to understand the predictability of energy gain from the rear side of module in terms of albedo (measure of the diffuse reflection of solar radiation).

Mr. Shreenidhi Sharma, while concurring on the note that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not the way to setting up a solar project, expressed that different scenarios call for different combination of technologies and their sizing. Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), albedo at a given location, Wafer size of modules, integration of modules with BOS, MMS design and cost are some of the critical factors that needs to be taken into account for choosing the right mix of technologies for a specific project.

Mr. Goutam Samanta expressed his ideas around technical considerations for building PV systems. He opined that 95-98% of the PV installations in India uses modules belonging to the mono-facial category. Bifacial modules are, technically, more beneficial than mono-facial ones considering the parameter of y-o-y degradation of the modules (for bifacial type, 1st year – 2% and subsequent years – 0.45%/year; for mono-facial type, 1st year – 2% and subsequent years – 0.55%/year). Within the bifacial type, glass-glass modules are more reliable than glass-transparent backsheet. Mr. Samanta added that the static and dynamic load conditions with respect to the module+MMS system must be carefully analyzed. Also, the choice over implementation of solar tracker would be location-specific and dependent upon the optics pertaining to the rear-side of the modules.

Ms. Harshitha S Kumar shared a comparative description of the PV technological trends in the Middle East and India. The bifacial module and tracker technologies have been well-adopted in the Middle East, as the combination of these technologies is leading to a definite synergistic energy gain. There are several locations having high albedo value (sometimes as high as 35%) which yields substantial rise (can be as high as 29% relative to fixed-tilt system) in energy gain. While shifting from mono-facial fixed-tilt system to bifacial with tracker system, additional parameters such as rear shading factor, shed transparency, etc. become significant. Ms. Kumar also mentioned that along with the location factor, for bifacial with tracker system, bifaciality factor of the modules serves as a key influencer. Further, land availability is another important factor to be considered to have optimal pitch distance.

Click here for webinar recording.