Residential Rooftop Solar Gains Momentum, Home Owners Go Green and Save Big
The residential segment accounted for 43% of the total rooftop solar installations in Q3
In major Indian cities, residential buildings and housing complexes are adopting rooftop solar solutions and transitioning towards clean energy. This transition is primarily driven by the enticing potential for cost savings and incentives.
In the first nine months of 2023, India witnessed a notable surge in rooftop solar installations, with a total capacity exceeding 1.3 GW, marking a 12% year-over-year (YoY). The third quarter alone saw the addition of 431 MW, indicating a significant 34.7% YoY growth.
Notably, the residential segment dominated with 43% of the total installations in the quarter, as highlighted in Mercom India Research’s Q3 2023 Mercom India Rooftop Solar Market Report.
Homeowners Share Success Stories of Rooftop Solar Benefits
Amidst the growing adoption of rooftop solar, homeowners share inspiring success stories, underscoring the tangible benefits and considerable cost advantages of this renewable energy transformation.
The Westend Heights Apartment Complex in Bengaluru saves a substantial ₹400,000 ($4,801) monthly on the common area electricity costs.
According to Karthikeya Khanna, secretary of the condominium’s residential welfare association, Westend Heights’ 400-kW rooftop solar system generates 45,000-47,000 units of electricity each month.
This equates to a tangible saving of ₹0.15 ($0.0018) per square foot in common area maintenance costs for every homeowner, resulting in about ₹225 (~$2.70) saved per month for a 1,500 sq. ft flat.
Khanna is optimistic about the installation breaking even in six years.
If Westend Heights is a success story of group housing embracing solar, Sudip Pramanik’s experience is of an independent home installing solar panels on the roof.
A Kolkata resident and a cybersecurity architect by profession, he gave Mercom a first-hand account of the motivation behind his decision to go solar.
Having noticed a surge in his monthly electricity bills by ₹800 (~$9.60) – ₹1,000 (~$12), due to the rising retail tariff in the state, Pramanik thought of exploring cheaper but sustainable solutions. He zeroed in on a rooftop solar system to cut electricity expenses and demonstrate his commitment to responsible resource management.
“We’ve practically eliminated fuel costs. Introducing induction (electric), cooking has not only cut our gas expenses but also prolonged the lifespan of our gas cylinder. While we’re still transitioning fully to induction, it complements our conventional gas usage.”
Like Khanna, Pramanik, who has installed a 3 kW rooftop solar system for roughly ₹170,000 (~$2,039), is looking to recover the investment in three to four years.
Pramanik advises those considering rooftop solar to consult professionals and compare quotes from different vendors. He dismisses concerns about perceived high maintenance costs.
Khanna explains how the rooftop solar installation at his condo took shape. “Commissioning the project’s first phase, we opened terraces to all residents, creating an educational experience. From optimizing electricity consumption to converting waste into compost, sustainability is now intrinsic to our community at Westend Heights. Rooftop solar has significantly influenced the community, sparking a desire for more sustainable initiatives.”
His success mantra is to plan well, prioritize transparency in sourcing, use a template for vendor quotes instead of seeking independent quotes, and maintain open and active communication with the residents.
Overcoming hurdles in rooftop solar system deployment
While rooftop solar presents a plethora of benefits, it also has challenges.
One of the main issues affecting these projects is albedo or shading – a tall structure adjoining a roof can block the sunlight.
A seasoned technical consultant from U-Solar, a renewable energy platform, said, “Shading is one of the major difficulties in residential rooftop solar installations. Solar panels can be significantly less efficient due to shading from adjacent buildings or trees, which results in energy loss.”
But, this is a challenge that can be overcome. Optimizers for shaded panels and high-wattage, high-efficiency modules are some solutions U-Solar prescribes.
Shreyas Gowda, Senior Vice President of Operations at Oorjan Cleantech, says installing rooftop solar systems in residential housing societies is often complicated due to limited space, complex ownership structures, financial constraints, and regulatory hurdles.
“One significant hurdle is the limited rooftop area available for solar installations due to various amenities and structural limitations in residential societies. The involvement of multiple stakeholders can lead to complexities in decision-making and obtaining installation approvals,” he says.
Engaging stakeholders through a collaborative approach is key. Oorjan provides diverse and equitable financial models, exploring innovative financing options like pay-as-you-go or leasing arrangements.
Nationalized banks and non-banking financial companies also extend loans for rooftop projects.
Khanna of Westend Heights also pointed to difficulties when the rooftop system has to be installed at a height of 70 meters, for instance. “Wind speed is a concern, so the mounting structures should be strong to withstand the gush of winds up to 12-150 kmph.”
Installing rooftop solar panels for homes and businesses involves meticulous assessment and planning, where roof suitability, size, and orientation are evaluated.
Beyond quantitative measures, factors such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, savings on electricity bills, increased property values, and improved quality of life contribute to the project’s impact.
Recently, a residential complex in Hyderabad has floated a tender to develop a 500-kW grid-connected rooftop solar power project in Gachibowli.
The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission recently increased the net metering cap for rooftop solar power projects to either 5 MW or the consumer’s contract demand/ sanction load, whichever is lower. Net metering in the state was earlier capped at less than 1 MW.
According to Mercom’s recently released India Solar Market Leaderboard 1H 2023, the top rooftop solar installers in India during the first half (1H) of the calendar year (CY) 2023 were Tata Power Solar, Havells India, Enerparc Energy, Amplus Solar, and Hartek Solar.