KOCHI: Raising hopes of a future where sustainable energy would replace other sources of power, solar energy generation in the state has registered tremendous growth in the past couple of years. The connectivity of domestic and commercial solar power plants to Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) grid saw a 100% increase in a year. The board’s direct investment in the sector also has gone up by the same fold. KSEB also started generating significant volume of electricity from its own solar plants this year. “Total power generation from our solar plants now stands at 90MW. It was less than 10MW last year,” said R Suku, chief engineer, KSEB’s Renewable Energy and Energy Saving (REES) cell. Board data shows the number of connections to its grid, which was around 200 last year, is 490 as of August, 2017. “The volume of power KSEB gets through grid has jumped to 6.9MW from 3.1 MW last year,” said another REES cell official.
The KSEB currently has solar projects with an aggregate capacity of 269 MW . “We have commissioned a 50MW project in solar park at Ambalathara in Kasaragod. The total capacity of the park is 200 MW ,” said a board spokesperson adding that they are scouting for land for another 200MW solar plant in the district.
KSEB officials said that most of the solar plants by individuals and firms are coming up in Ernakulam and Thrissur. According to KSEB officials, on an average, there are five consumers under the limits of each of the 80 electrical sections in Ernakulam who have solar grid connectivity or have applied for it. One of the major reasons for the surge is the dip in the cost of erecting the plant. In around three years, the cost of solar panels and other related devices have dropped by around 20%. Domestic consumers whose power requirement is high, offices working during daytime and educational institutions and hospitals top the chart of consumers who have switched to solar power. “The tariff for commercial consumers is in the range of Rs7-9 per unit whereas the same is Rs 3 -7 for domestic consumers. That’s why the hospitals, educational institutions etc, which fall under commercial category opt for solar energy ,” said a KSEB official.
“Offices functioning only in daytime opt for solar power as they don’t need much power during night. The electricity bills for such consumers are just Rs 6, which is the meter rent,” the official said.
“Six years ago when I installed the plant, cost for 2KW capacity was close to Rs 5 lakh.Now, it has come down by 2030%,” said Sankara Menon, a resident of Kochi. “Before we installed the plant, our electricity bill was around Rs 8,000. Despite the tariff hikes, now our bill stands at around Rs 1, 000,” he said.
Tax deduction on account of accelerated depreciation benefit for solar energy projects also has helped the sector. “So, many businesses are opting for installing solar plants,” said Georgekutty Kariyanappally, secretary, Kerala Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs and Promoters Association.
Officials with Moopens Energy , one of the front runners in the sector said that they completed installation of an aggregate of 5MW solar plats across the state. “Of this, 3.5 MW is in Ernakulam district alone,” said Neeraj Kishore Ramachandran, director operations, Moopens Energy Solutions Private Limited. “In the past eight months, we got the same volume of business which we got during the three-and-a-half years which preceded the period,” added.