In conversation with Vivek Jha, Co-founder and Managing Director, Yellow Tropus Pvt. Ltd.
Let’s start with the recent developments at your organisation in last one year.
We, Yellow Tropus, are a design and engineering company focussed and specialised in the development of Floating Solar PV (FSPV) power plants. Our work in the sector addresses the paradox of ‘scarcity amidst plenty’ with respect to high solar PV electricity penetration in India. Our technologies enable us to establish power plants in a variety of abundant yet under-utilised settings, such as abandoned mining sites (aimed at rejuvenation), lakes and ponds available in urban and rural settings (aimed at conservation), water reservoirs (aimed at evaporation mitigation), industries with large water requirements such as thermal power plants (also aimed at water conservation) etc.
These floating power plant(s), demonstrate a large range of co-benefits and on an average produce higher energy yields as compared to their contemporaries on land. Yellow Tropus has designed, developed and patented three specific technologies, which we currently manufacture - [a] FSPV power plant equipped with dual-axis tracking (DAT) mechanism; [b] Stingray Technology - FSPV power plant with a fixed tilt with an aim to minimise losses due to evaporation; [c] Seahorse Technology - FSPV power plant with a fixed tilt with an aim to maximise cost-effectiveness.
These power plants inherit the benefits of land-based solar power plants but overcome their limiting factors of growth – requirement of large tracts of land. In addition to higher energy generation, the technology provides a huge range of co-benefits such as complete avoidance of land acquisition, ability to be combined with water based livelihoods, evaporation control (extremely beneficial for large reservoirs), improvements in accompanying water ecosystem, inter alia.
Being involved since the inception of the floating solar industry, we appreciate the policy advances made by various governments across the globe. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) under the aegis of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has recently launched a programme on FSPV power plants and intends to undertake a capacity addition of 10,000 MW in the country in the coming three years. Keeping apace with this policy mandate, Yellow has made significant investments in expanding manufacturing. In the past year, Yellow has developed amongst the largest manufacturing bases of standardised flotation devices poised to cater to the surging global demand of establishing FSPV power plants globally. Another milestone achieved by Yellow has been the successful installation and commissioning of a Floating Power Plant at Panipat Refinery, Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL).
As a developer, what key challenges do you face today?
Our current role in the sector is that of a Technology provider. Our focus has been on continuous technological innovation, through which we have been able to develop solution(s) that are cost effective, apart from being modular, easy to assemble while requiring low operation and maintenance. We believe, that our technology imbibes the very concepts that lie at the heart of solutions framed within the settings of water-energy nexus.
In India, taking into consideration the equitably distributed water bodies across the country, a total surface area of approximately 43,000 sq.km is available yet underutilised. Considering only 20% of this available area, a capacity of approximately 850 Giga Watt can be added. This is almost eight times the ambition of India’s current solar mission.
Given this context that illustrates the potential of floating solar in India, juxtaposed with the aggressive nature of bidding in the solar industry focussed on lowest tariffs, our largest concerns are related to proliferation of sub-standard technologies. We strongly believe that if due consideration is not given to quality then the sector might suffer in the long run. Requisite awareness generation with respect to requisite technical standards, therefore, is a challenge. Our continuous engagement with the industry and policy makers has continuously focussed on this aspect. Further, taking a cue from examples available globally that have heralded a growth in solar around floating solar, requisite support needs to be accorded by policymakers in India to this sector, which is still in its early stages of development. A strong foundation, therefore, needs to be established - that derives its strength from sound technical knowledge. In economic terms, this implies that early adopters of this technology need to be rewarded. This would in turn promote an environment where developers, if provided enough manoeuvring space, would look at long-term and sustainable solutions by considering and accounting for appropriate safety factors and contingencies.
Which states do you believe lead see maximum solar energy investments this year?
In India, water bodies, unlike land suitable for large-scale expansion of solar, are equitably distributed across the country. This availability of under-utilized reservoirs that now can be used for development of FSPV power plants, provides a promising alternative for several states in India that have a paucity of land – southern states like Kerala or our North-eastern states. A complete avoidance of land acquisition in conjunction with the multiple co-benefits concomitant with FSPV power plants, therefore, offer an opportunity towards shifting the energy mix towards renewable energy.
In terms of area available for installing FSPV power plants, Uttar Pradesh is endowed with the largest quantum, in terms of available surface area, of water bodies followed by Karnataka and Maharashtra. In addition, states like Kerala, which may not be able to fulfil their solar ambitions by contemporary routes of ground-mounted and rooftop solar, can easily add a capacity of 12,000 MW through establishing FSPV power plants.
As the assets become older, will aggressive bidding today become a pain point for the industry a few years down the line?
There is no simple answer to this, and a lot depends on the developer. Most of the large-scale projects in India are operated on a BOOT model, and as a result are operated and maintained by the developer for a substantial portion of the asset’s life. If the developer utilizes substandard products for lowering capital costs then the asset in question might cost her/him more in the long run. As a result, the relationship between aggressive bidding and creation of substandard assets, that might become a pain point for the industry, are primarily governed by the motivations of the developer. A developer sighting short gains may compromise on quality aspects, while, a developer with intentions of creating a sustainable tomorrow, which is the actual genesis of this industry, would aim to create quality assets.
Anything else you would like to add for our readers.
Yellow has been involved with the development of FSPV power plants in India since its very inception. Our focus has, since the beginning, been on continuous innovation. We, as a result, have been able to pioneer several technologies that are a global first - aimed at value creation. Our passion for the environment is reflected in all our designs, which cares for aquatic life and overall environment while delivering clean energy.
We believe, that the power of the ‘Yellow’ sun over the aquatic ‘Blue’ provides a paradigm shift in how we generate electricity. The floating solar industry, however, is still in its early stages of development and therefore needs requisite support from the industry as well as the policymakers alike.