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Prime Minister Modi inaugurates India’s symbolic first battery-enabled 24/7 ‘solar town’

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attended an inauguration event for a community energy network enabling an entire town to source all its electricity from solar PV.

The first-of-its-kind project combines a 6MW solar PV array with a 6MW/15MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) and smart controls as well as solar rooftops “on all feasible buildings,” as described by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

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It is sited at Modhera, home of Modhera Sun Temple, a location in the state of Gujarat chosen partly for its symbolic significance. The energy network enables the temple, the town of Modhera and a nearby village where the PV array is located, to source all their electricity needs from renewables 24/7.

Prime Minister Modi was at the event yesterday (9 October), calling it a “big day for Modhera as it takes a giant leap towards harnessing solar power,” on Twitter.  

Modi, as former chief minister for the state of Gujarat, is said to have had the vision for the project, aiming for it to demonstrate a replicable model for enabling access to electricity in towns and villages, from low carbon sources.

MNRE had tendered for the project in 2020. In June, as work on the project came towards completion, Energy-Storage.news reported that it included 271x 1kW rooftop PV installations. The project first came online in summer 2021, with the official inauguration held over until this year.

According to the MNRE, there are now more than 1,300 rooftop solar systems in Modhera, enabling residents and local government buildings to save more than two-thirds of their electricity bill costs. As part of the project, the area now also has electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and smart metering of electricity.

Smart controls were provided by digital renewable energy services company GreenPowerMonitor (GPM), a subsidiary of DNV.

GPM’s regional manager Sergi Bosque Garcia said in June that creating the solar-battery hybrid project was challenging, but “opens a wide range of possibilities to provide 100% renewable and clean energy to local communities,” and could be replicated “in other regions with similar needs”.

Bi-directional power conversion system (PCS) units were provided by FIMER, an inverter and power electronics manufacturer headquartered in Italy with an established Indian market presence.

The project was reported to have cost a total of about US$8.4 million, paid jointly by the Gujarat state government and the national Union government via the MNRE.

India is targeting – and achieving – massive renewable energy growth, targeting the addition of 500GW of non-fossil fuel energy resources by 2030, having already surpassed the 150GW mark this year.

Where most of that new capacity is likely to be utility-scale wind, solar and battery storage, the government also has policy targets to increase electricity access for communities that don’t yet have it, or only have unreliable grid access, particularly in rural and remote areas.

On a related note, but on a bigger scale, various tenders have been held and power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed in India for supply of round-the-clock (RTC) renewable energy for utilities and corporations.

One prominent example of that is a 400MW PPA signed by independent power producer (IPP) ReNew Power with the national Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), signed in August 2021.

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