It’s one of the few digital platforms of its kind – including AHA Solar Rooftop Helper, SunPro+ and the Surya Mitra app – that have sprung up to connect solar maintenance experts looking for work with customers who need cleaning and repair services.
Delivering these services more efficiently is seen as key to helping promote and achieve the goals of India’s renewable energy push, which aims to steer the South Asian country away from its dependence on fossil fuels, including including coal.
This month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed a major clean energy project to make Modhera in western Gujarat state the world’s first 24-hour solar-powered village, 7 days a week, citizens generate their own electricity from 1,300 rooftop systems.
In the villages, if a battery fails, the solar lamps connected to it switch off and stay on.
Aviram Sharma, Assistant Professor, Nalanda University
The key to the project’s success – and ensuring sustainable power generation – will depend on properly maintaining the systems, say the researchers, citing numerous examples of poor after-sales service leading to rooftop solar projects obsolete.
“In villages, if a battery fails, the solar lights connected to it turn off and stay that way,” said Aviram Sharma, assistant professor at Nalanda University in Bihar, who has conducted research on micro -solar networks in rural areas.
Remote villages lack shops where people can get a solar system repaired, unlike mobile phones, he said.
“As a result, it stops working forever,” Sharma added.
India has fallen behind on its goal of installing 40 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar power capacity by the end of 2022.
A April report by consulting firm JMK Research and the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), projected a capacity shortfall of 25 GW this year.
The high cost of installing solar systems – which can range from 40,000 to 80,000 Indian rupees ($482 to $964) for a 1 kilowatt system – has deterred many potential consumers, suppliers say.
For the ever-increasing number of rooftop solar panel owners across India, keeping them in business is the main concern.
“Our market research has shown early adopters of rooftop solar have had very poor experiences,” said Vivek Kumar, who leads operations and maintenance at SunEdison.
“No one is selling the experience of going solar to a consumer. It is sold as a one-time investment that ends with installation. Maintenance is not discussed,” he added.