Business Opportunities in Diverse Off-grid Applications

1.Telecommunication Sector

Power system reliability is critical for most communications applications and availability must be near 100 percent. Most systems are in remote locations with limited access and often with extreme weather conditions part of the year. For these reasons, PV systems are increasingly being used to supply power for telecommunication applications.
Solar diesel hybrid systems can also be sometimes used to reduce initial cost, particularly if the peak power demand is much greater than the average demand. In these system setups battery is critical.
Applications: Two-Way Radio, Radio Communications, Telephone Mobile Radio Systems
Users: Utilities, Military, Government Agencies, Businesses
Telecommunications companies are the prominent market segments looking toward renewable energy as they search for new solutions to power India’s nearly 400,000 telecom towers. These towers consume 3-5 kilowatts power depending on the number of operators using the tower.
In addition, the government is planning to make it mandatory for mobile phone towers to be powered by solar energy, hoping to cut pollution and tamp down a key driver of diesel consumption in the country. Due to issues like pilferage, the cost of diesel power for a telecom tower can be very high – in some cases as much as Rs. 40/unit. Solar can be both environment friendly and economical for the tower operator.

2.Common Service Centres

Common Services Centres (CSCs) Scheme-Part of the National e-Governance Plan under Bharat Nirman – is the nationwide initiative of Government of India to provide support for establishing 1 Lakh Common Service Centres in 6 Lakh villages of India. CSCs scheme has been started in 2006 with the vision to develop these centres as a front-end delivery points for Government, private and social sector services to rural citizens of India in an integrated manner.
Considering establishments of CSCs on such a large scale, their energy demands (PCs, Printers, Cameras, Wireless connectivity, Genset/Inverter) needs to be fulfilled in areas which themselves are suffering unreliable grid or no grid connection at all. Energy supply is the offering hindrance to development of this e-governance mechanism. For this, solar roof tops and decentralized power plants can offer best solution.


ATMs require uninterrupted power supply and connectivity to communicate with the ATM Network (Core Banking System) and avail transactions to its customers. In order to reach more and more customers, banks have been establishing ATMs on large scale.
Normally ATMs use a complex Cash Dispensing Mechanism where the cassettes are horizontal and at bottom of the ATM and cash is moved from the cassette through a conveyor belt upwards to dispense cash in the cash presenter in ATM. Also they use CRT monitors in many models as well as full-fledged PC boards consuming power.
Solar ATMs have innovative Cash Dispensing Mechanism, that does not use any conveyor belt and the cassette is mounted vertically in the top half of the ATM. This makes the notes dispensed from cassette to travel only a short distance to the cash presenter in ATM. So, it uses much smaller and low-power consuming motors and hence able to operate under less power. It also uses lower-power consuming processors and LCD displays that consume much less power and Linux as OS. Low power consumption ensures that the heat generated by the ATM is negligible.

4.Water Pumping Systems

Pumping water is a universal need around the world and the use of photovoltaic power is increasing for this application. PV powered pumping systems offer simplicity, reliability, and low maintenance for a broad range of applications between hand pumps and large generator driven irrigation pumps. The solar PV powered water-pumping system (DC Surface suction, DC floating, and DC or AC submersibles) can offer a veritable panacea to the problem of finding power to pump water for irrigation in India. Typical pump systems in India are of the DC surface suction type (approximately 86% of solar pumping systems installed in India), DC submersible type (2%), DC floating type (2%), and AC submersible (10%). The system for solar pumping depends on the nature of the well: deep well, bore well, open well etc.
India has about 26 million groundwater pumps – a huge market to be tapped by solar.
Applications: Irrigation, Village Water Supply, Drinking water, Agriculture related use, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Poultry farming , High value crops , Orchard
Users: Farmers /Ranchers, Villagers

5.Large Commercial Buildings/Facilities

Solar systems, especially solar PV can be set up on commercial buildings for lighting, AC and other usage. This helps commercial business move away from relying solely on central power plants and dramatically reduce grid electricity use and electricity bills.

For most commercial and industrial buildings, rooftop solar technology is the clear choice as many other renewable energy sources aren’t quite ready for prime time in the small-installation – they typically thrive in large megawatt-sized developments. Solar can be a solution almost everywhere.

Large, flat, relatively empty roofs top most industrial facilities, warehouses, and big-box retail stores, creating a solar-energy system’s version of prime real estate. These flat and often easily accessible rooftops make solar-system installation and maintenance easy on roofers, solar photovoltaic integrators, and the building owners.

6.On-shore and Off-shore Oil & Gas

For quite some years, the wireless supply of energy has been an especially suitable solution for oil & gas activities, which by their very nature are carried out in remote locations.

Solar photovoltaic energy systems are considered highly efficient systems in this sector due to their extensive reliability, even in high risk locations. They can be used to supply energy for oil & gas installation functions such as pipelines control systems, beaconing, and nocturnal lighting for on-shore or off-shore oil platforms. Solar can also help in diesel displacement for major oil and gas companies.


Desalination plants are another important off-grid application for PV. Desalination (desalting) has been presented for decades as a suitable alternative for the partial solution of the fresh water crisis. Desalination of brackish and sea water can provide the need of drinking water without any serious impact on the environment.

Solar desalination is more applicable for

  • Small communities of limited fresh water demand (up to 10 m3/day),
  • Areas far from the sources of water and energy (fuel & electricity), and
  • Communities of small technical capabilities.

Many of these areas enjoy an abundant solar intensity (annual daily average is between 200 – 300 W/m2) and large annual sun hours.

However, it should be noted that it is not just solar PV, but also solar thermal that find application in desalination facilities. In fact, in hybrid configurations, solar thermal systems are more viable in these systems (as a fuel saver).

  • Remote villages
  • Beach resorts
  • Islands
  • Remote coastal areas

8.On-shore and Off-shore Oil & Gas

Remote instrumentation and data communications equipment require reliable power to prevent interruption or loss of data. Photovoltaic power supplies are ideal for this application because the power requirements are usually low, and many units are installed far from conventional power sources. Because of the reliability and simplicity of the PV power supply; these systems are even replacing AC powered units in areas served by utility companies. Systems should be placed in areas where potential shading and the vulnerability to vandalism are low

  • Climate Monitoring
  • Solar PV power plants, wind farms, hydro power stations,
  • Highway Conditions
  • Seismic Recording

9.Cathodic Protection

Any underground metal storage tanks holding toxic materials or petrochemicals require cathodic protection. In addition, there are thousands of miles of pipelines and thousands of well casings that are corrosion protected using cathodic protection. PV systems have been used successfully for this application, particularly in instances where the current requirements are small and there is no ready access to utility power grids. The use of PV for this application will increase as the effectiveness of metal coatings decrease current demand, and as the advantages of PV are better understood by the corrosion protection engineering community. Determining the amount of current required to protect a metal structure is not straightforward and is a challenge for experienced corrosion engineers.

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3.  Drivers of Off-grid Solar Market Growth in India
4.  Government Initiatives/ Programs to Support Off-Grid Renewable Energy Deployment in        India
5.   Ways to Identify Other Potential and Attractive Off-grid Segments
6.   Solar Business Opportunities – An Overview
7.   List of High Potential Sectors and Opportunities in the Solar Sector
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10. Business Opportunities in Solar Thermal – Power Applications
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12. Manufacturing Opportunities in Solar Energy Sector
13. Key Customer Segments for MW Scale Power Plants
14. Attractive Segments and Innovations in Rooftop Solar Sector
15. Business Models for MW Scale Solar PV in India
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India Renewable Energy Expert