Hybrids could ‘refuel’ India’s waning wind sector

Wind-solar hybrid projects are poised to save India’s flagging wind sector, with new analysis suggesting 15GW of new hybrid capacity could come online in the next five years.

India only has 100MW of operational wind-solar hybrid projects (pic credit: Hero Future Energies)
India only has 100MW of operational wind-solar hybrid projects (pic credit: Hero Future Energies)

Crisil, a subsidiary of ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, suggested wind could benefit from being paired with cheaper solar PV arrays to leverage shared transmission infrastructure.

It forecast 15GW of wind-solar hybrids to come online in the next five years, including 10GW of projects that have already started construction or have been tendered.

India currently has just 100MW of such hybrid power systems and has no capacity targets for the nascent sector.

Crisil’s research looked at two types of wind-solar hybrid projects – wind and solar only projects known as “pure-play” and those with storage capacities, such as pumped hydro or lithium-ion batteries.

Government agency the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and several state governments have held three 1.2GW tenders for pure-play projects since 2018.

Meanwhile, just one 1.2GW tender has been held for wind-solar hybrid projects with storage — a 1.2GW round in January.

Crisil believes hybrid projects with storage will be capable of catering to peak load generation on India’s grid and of reducing the country’s dependence on gas-based and pumped hydro-based peaking plants.

While Crisil’s research recognises the benefits of co-locating wind and solar plants together in terms of sharing transmission infrastructure, it supports industry demands that would allow wind and solar plants to operate from different locations. According to its latest report, this would help bring down tariffs “owing to better plant utilisation levels”. 

Ultimately, tariffs remain a large obstacle for hybrid projects, the analysts conclude. The average tariff for wind-solar hybrids is currently INR 2,800/MWh ($37.09/MWh) – higher than solar, which has dropped to INR 2,500/MWh in recent bids. By comparison, India’s wind tariff has stuck at INR 2,800-2,850/MWh. 

Although “cross-subsidising” more costly wind power with lower-cost solar will provide some price cushion at the lower end, the pricing needs to be attractive to make hybridisation competitive, the report states.

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