Rooftop solar system on your mind? Check benefits, cost, and how to apply

India is in the middle of an unprecedented . A shortage of domestic coal has caused a precarious situation at power plants, leading to power cuts and outages. The country recently saw an energy deficit of 5% at the national level, with some states reporting even steeper deficits. The looming has renewed attention on alternative power sources. One such technology—rooftop solar—despite being promising, has remained critically underutilised in India. There are several benefits of installing a rooftop solar plant, both for consumers as well as the government. For instance, they can help cut down electricity bills and they also align with the government’s ambitious goal of going greener.

How does it work?

Solar technologies absorb the Sun’s radiation and turn it into energy. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, the photovoltaics (PV) cells in the panel absorb the sunlight, helping in the creation of electric current. A rooftop solar plant refers to one where the solar panels are mounted on top of a residential or commercial building.

Here are the pros and cons of installing a rooftop solar system.

Pros

Cost savings: It is cheaper than the conventional electric supply and government subsidies also help bring the cost down.

Low maintenance charges: Most rooftop solar systems have a life expectancy of up to 25 years and require only basic maintenance such as regular cleaning and repairs.

No additional land is required as vacant rooftop space can be utilised for installing solar panels.

Reduction in carbon footprint: Solar is a clean and renewable source of energy that helps in cutting the emission of greenhouse gases.

Cons

Solar panels are not suitable for every type of roof. For instance, it could be difficult to set them up on slate or cedar tiles used in old houses.

Since solar is a big financial investment, it may not be an ideal choice for young homeowners who could be moving in the coming years.

How much does it cost?

The cost of setting up a rooftop solar system varies with the quality and price of the modules and inverters used. On average, the installation of a 1 kW rooftop solar system could cost between Rs 45,000 and Rs 85,000. Batteries would cost extra if power is to be stored.

Similarly, the cost for a 5 kW system would fall between Rs 2,25,000 to Rs 3,25,000. Rooftop solar systems are considered lighter on pocket as their cost can usually be recovered in 5-6 years.

Are there any subsidies?

The central government offers financial support to consumers for installing rooftop solar systems. However, the subsidy is only available for residential properties and not for commercial/industrial establishments.

Classification of subsidies:

Up to 3 kW capacity – 40%

4-10 kW capacity – 20%

Above 10 kW – No subsidy

In the case of GHS/RWA consumers, there is a subsidy provision of 20% for a total capacity up to 500 kWp (limited to 10 kWp per house).

How to apply for a solar rooftop system?

Consumers can apply for a rooftop solar system through the online portal of their respective DISCOM: https://solarrooftop.gov.in/grid_others/discomPortalLink.

The government has also launched a toll-free helpline number to provide information about the scheme: 1800-180-3333

The bigger picture

India has failed to fully utilise the potential of rooftop solar technology. The government had set a target of reaching 40GW rooftop solar energy capacity by 2022, but there would be a shortfall of 25GW from this target, according to a report. As of December 2020, rooftop solar accounts for nearly 20% of the country’s entire solar energy capacity – 6,792 MW of 34,197 MW. Experts and consumers have blamed a tedious application procedure, delivery hurdles, and delay in payment of subsidies for the failure.

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