India solar agency invites bids for 2GW of solar EPC contracts

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The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), the government body leading the country’s flagship Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, is inviting engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms to bid for contracts to build 2,000MW of solar power capacity.

In an expression of interest notice, SECI said it was aiming to rapidly scale up solar power generation in the country. The 2,000MW of PV capacity planned to meet this aim will be made of projects ranging from 250MW to 500MW which will SECI will contract on an EPC basis.

The time periods envisaged for completion of the projects are 30 months for 500MW and 24 months for 250MW.

But it was unclear how SECI’s plan fitted into other solar programmes in India, which is pursuing a target of 100GW of solar by 2022.

Consultancy Bridge to India said in a blog post that this was the first time SECI had taken on a project development role and that the reasons for the move were unclear given a limited government budget.

“It is important for the industry to understand the future of SECI and whether this tender fits into a larger picture or it is just a piecemeal arrangement,” Bridge to India said.

Referring to government guidelines for allocating 3,000MW of projects through a competitive bidding process and another 2,000MW through India’s viability gap funding programme, the consultancy said the allocation process for either of these programmes had yet to begin: “From these guidelines, it seems that SECI would invest into this 2,000MW and the opportunity would not go the renewable independent power producers and other private investors.”

The consultancy also expressed concern about SECI investing in solar projects itself when private investors are “more than willing” to take on projects.

It added: “At a time when the government should be focusing on attracting private domestic and international capital for solar projects, this development is providing a different message.”

With a minimum of 4.5 acres required for 1MW, a 500MW project would require 2,250 acres. Bridge to India said this is “a massive task” given the troubles of land acquisition in India.

For example, local reports this week said that land prices in Tamil Nadu rose five-fold after an announcement from Adani Group of plans to build a solar park of 1,000MW capacity in the region.

However, president of the Tamil Nadu Solar Energy Association, Raju V R Palanisamy told PV Tech that the hike in Tamil Nadu land prices was only moderate and increased demand for land was simply bringing prices back up to levels from four years ago. He also said that what solar companies pay for land is nominal compared to the PV installations.

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