The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified that solar cells made of imported blue wafers are not domestically produced, and therefore don’t qualify for benefits under government schemes.
With this decision, the ministry hopes to encourage production and use of domestically produced solar panels.
Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar PV panels are made of silicon, but monocrystalline panels are made of a single silicon crystal seed, which is placed in a vessel or vat of molten silicon and slowly drawn out, forming an ingot of solid crystal silicon, which is then finely sliced into silicon wafers. These wafers are used to produce solar PV cells. The cells manufactured out of this process are black in colour, because the light interacts with a single silicon crystal (hence the ‘mono’). Black solar cells are higher in quality and more difficult to manufacture than the regular blue polycrystalline ones, and consequently, priced higher.
The manufacture of polycrystalline cells forgoes the seed process; vessels of molten silicon are simply cooled and then sliced into wafers to make the blue solar panels that we are familiar with. The blue colour is also due to an anti-reflective coating that counteracts the slight sheen that blue panels have (as opposed to black ones).
While blue cells have hitherto been relatively more inexpensive to produce, Mercom India’s recent interview with LONGi marketing director Wang Yingge shows that this will soon not be the case:
Can you tell us about the current trends you see in module prices?
The price of the mono wafer is relatively stable but may decline in the next year. Module and cell prices this year have been stable too. But next year, mono PERC prices are likely to come down as the manufacturing capacity has increased. On the other hand, poly market can’t last for long as poly suppliers won’t be able to make money because of their costs.
So it looks like the blue solar panels we see on rooftops these days will soon not be the cost-effective option. Black monocrystalline cells appear to be on the rise. At the moment, the price of the highest quality mono panels (19% efficiency) ranges from Rs 42 per WP for a Watt range of 200-300W to Rs 46 per WP for panels within 0-50W; while the price range of the most efficient poly panels (17% efficiency) lies between Rs 36 per WP for above 300W to Rs 73 per WP for 0-50W (figures via ET).
There are a number of government subsidies and schemes available to lower the cost to consumers (and installer companies), in order to promote solar power usage across the country. But! Do remember to opt for a domestic manufacturer while buying your panels (or insisting that the company does so).
According to the order issued by the MNRE, a solar PV cell will be considered domestically manufactured only if it has been processed and manufactured in India using undiffused silicon wafer or black wafer, classifiable under Customs Tariff Head 3818.
After all, what do Gandhi, Tagore, Alisha Chinai, and Narendra Modi all have in common? They pushed for Swadeshi/Made in India/Make in India!
WP- Watt Peak. Stands for peak power. This value specifies the output power achieved by a Solar module under full solar radiation (under set Standard Test Conditions). Solar radiation of 1,000 watts per square meter is used to define standard conditions. (Via SolarMango)