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IL&FS Energy Development Co. (IEDC) has embarked upon a first-of-its-kind feasibility study to examine the possibility of integrating wind and solar power production along with energy storage at a single plant. The results are expected by September.
"They can be utilised by anyone who wants to come up with hybrid tenders or demonstration hybrid projects," said Sunil Wadhwa, Managing Director. "We have also talked to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission to consider fixing a special feed-in tariff for such projects."
IEDC, the power and infrastructure arm of IL&FS, currently operates 760 MW of wind farms across seven states and is developing one each at Ramagiri in Andhra Pradesh and Nana Layja in Gujarat. It is setting up solar parks of 5,000 MW capacity in Rajasthan in collaboration with the state government. The company is also into bagasse-based power generation and bio-mass projects.
he study will examine what combination of wind, solar and storage at different locations is ideal from cost and generation perspectives. Sponsored by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), GE has been roped in as a consultant.
Although hybrid renewable power plants have yet to come up in India, developers realise they have numerous advantages. Both forms of energy are, by their nature, erratic, energy could counterbalance each other to provide more consistent power. Hybrid models would also reduce land costs, with solar modules being laid out in the area between wind turbines.
Most importantly, transmission lines could be utilised more efficiently. "If you have 1 MW of installed solar capacity and 1 MW of wind at the same place, your transmission cost would be about 35% lower than if you transmitted the same amount of power from two different locations," said Wadhwa.
"We are creating a platform where the first pilot project can be tested," he added. "The outcome of the study will be the design of a 1,000 MW project which will show where exactly the wind turbines should be located, where the solar panels should be and where the storage batteries, so as to get the best results possible, factoring in as many as variables as we can, such as the shadow effect, the direction the sun travels, overall radiation for the day and how much storage is required to make energy supply predictable."
If the study results are positive, IEDC might itself initiate a hybrid project at Ramagiri, where the study is being conducted. "But that is only if a reasonable feed-in tariff becomes available," said Wadhwa. "We are working on that with regulators and the government."
Currently, no renewable energy plant in the country includes storage because it is highly expensive, more than doubling the cost of producing power. The plants all concentrate on evacuating the power they produce to the grid quickly. If solar and wind energy are to balance each other out at a hybrid plant, storage is vital. In any case, as renewable installed capacity grows, the grid may not be able to absorb all the power produced instantly and the need for storing it will become increasingly important.
The Solar Energy Corporation of India has announced that it will soon float a hybrid tender for 750 MW of installed capacity, which will include 100 MW of storage. Every bidder will have to include a small storage system alongside its solar plant.
Globally, companies such as Tesla Motors, Samsung SDI and Panasonic have developed storage batteries for renewable power. In India, solar developer Acme Cleantech Solutions is designing complete solar modules using lithium-ion batteries with 100 MW-hours of capacity,
"The storage cost cannot be entirely passed on to the consumer," said Wadhwa. "There will have to be some sort of regulatory mechanism. Some viability gap funding (VGF) will have to be put in, at least to start with."
The IEDC study will include devising a VGF proposal which, if accepted by the government, will enable commercialisation of the project. "Part of the National Clean Energy Fund could go into viability gap funding of storage projects," he added.
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