Feature

Mar/Apr preview: India’s solar sunrise


Darshan Goswami

Solar Energy has the potential to re-energise India’s economy by creating millions of new jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce the trade deficit and propel India forward as a ‘green nation’. In short, solar offers too many benefits for India to ignore or delay its development, believes Darshan Goswami.

This article excerpt is taken from the forthcoming issue of Renewable Energy Focus magazine (March/April issue). To register to receive a digital copy click here.

India is one of the sun’s most favoured nations, blessed with about 5000 TWh of solar insoluation every year. India should tap this vast resource to satisfy its growing energy demand – and time is of the essence. Even if a tenth of this potential was utilised, it could mark the end of India’s power problems – using the country’s deserts and farm land.

India could lead the world by embracing the power of the sun, if smart business models and favourable policies are developed and implemented nationwide as quickly as possible.

Need backing

Despite the worldwide recession, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry has demonstrated unprecedented growth over the past years, with increased demand for solar power attracting more and more players into the market. The price of solar panels fell 47% in 2011, according to Bloomberg. This has made the business case for solar more compelling because solar PV has, in some parts of the world, already reached grid parity, and it will soon be below the US$1/W cost target for most of the world sometime this year. This is making solar technology more competitive with traditional energy sources.

The Indian Government should therefore embrace favourable tax structures and consider providing financial resources to fund projects such as community solar farms as part of their energy development programmes. “India can be a great power, ushering in a game-changing third industrial revolution by utilising its renewable energy resources and collaborating with power producers and suppliers,” says American Economist and Author Jeremy Rifkin. India could become the Saudi Arabia of solar energy.

Solar energy is a win-win for India and the environment, and India should make solar energy a mainstream component of its energy diversification. There is really no better economical choice for India.

India needs solar energy now

India has tremendous energy needs and an increasing difficulty in meeting those requirements through traditional means of power generation. Electricity consumption in India has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world due to population growth and economic development. The Indian economy faces increasing challenges because energy supply is struggling to keep pace with demand, and there are energy shortages of 10-13% daily almost everywhere in the country. Because India has so many black-outs, many factories and households use emergency diesel generators as back-ups. This back-up power could be supplied by solar energy.

Solar has the potential to transform the Indian economy in the same way as the information technology (IT) and auto industry transformed the Indian economy in the 1990s. India is in a unique position to introduce clean energy solutions on an enormous scale to provide affordable energy for everyone – especially the poor.

India should take full advantage of this golden opportunity because solar energy has particular relevance in remote and rural areas, where around 289 million people live without access to electricity. Solar energy is the most cost-effective option for India to reduce energy poverty without having to extend national grid services to provide power for individual homes and buildings.

Renewable energy is an attractive investment because it will provide long-term economic growth for the country. A favourable renewable energy policy could create millions of jobs and an economic stimulus of at least US$1 trillion, and perhaps much more if all indirect economic (ripple) effects are included. "India is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy sources and if properly utilised, India can realise its place in the world as a great power," Rifkin says.

If houses in villages and cities produce energy from solar power and then sell it to distribution companies, this could, for example, give a level-playing field to rural areas in terms of industrialisation.

The Government needs to play a decisive role, however, by providing feed-in-tariffs, tax credits and other support mechanisms in order to realise the significant solar potential in India. It would be a serious miscalculation, if India missed out on this opportunity.

How solar energy can work for India

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Comments

ANUMAKONDA JAGADEESH said

09 April 2012
Darshan Goswami portrays quite a bright picture for solar energy. There is more talk than action on Solar energy in India.
A target to set up 1,100 MW of grid connected solar power plants by March, 2013 has been fixed for the first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in India. During 2010-11 a total of 802 MW capacity projects have been allotted so far under the Mission.

About 30 MW capacity grid connected solar power plants have been set up in the country. A State/UT wise list of grid solar power projects commissioned so far is given in Table-1.


Against the over all target of 2,000 MW of off-grid solar applications and 20 million solar thermal collector area by 2022, a target to set up 200 MW capacity of off-grid solar projects and 7 million square metre solar thermal collectors by March, 2013 has been fixed for the first phase of the Mission.
State-wise List of Grid Solar Power Projects ( As on 31.1.2011)
S No. State / UT Capacity (kWp)
1 Andhra Pradesh 100
2 Arunanchal Pradesh 25
3 Gujarat 5000
4 Karnataka 6000
5 Kerala 25
6 Madhya Pradesh 100
7 Maharashtra 1000
8 Punjab 2325
9 Rajasthan 4950
10 Tamil Nadu 5050
11 Uttar Pradesh 375
12 Uttarakhand 50
13 West Bengal 1150
14 Andaman & Nicobar 100
15 Delhi 2142
16 Lakshadweep 750
17 Puducherry 25
18 Others 790
Total 29957
MOST OF THE SOLAR INSTALLATIONS ARE SUPPORTED BY INCENTIVES. THE INCENTIVES CANNOT BE CONTINUED FOR EVER. WE HAVE SEEN HOW THE WIND INDUSTRY IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE REDUCTION OF DEPRECIATION BENEFITS FROM APRIL 2012.

SO UNTIL THE EFFICIENCY OF SOLAR CELL IMPROVES WHEN THE COST OF GENERATION COMPETES WITH CONVENTIONAL ENERGY, SOLAR ENERGY CAN ONLY PLAY A LIMITED ROLE.
ON THE OTHER HAND BIOMASS AND BIOGAS CAN PLAY A SIGNIFICANT ROLE ESPECIALLY IN RURAL AREAS IN INDIA. PRODUCTION OF BIOFUEL FROM AGAVE,PRODUCTION OF BIOGAS FROM PLANTS LIKE WATER HYACINTH AND OPUNTIA OFFER BRIGHT PROSPECTS. MEXICO IS PIONEER ON THIS.
MORE THAN POWER GENERATION ENERGY CONSERVATION OFFERS IMMEDIATE GAINS IN THE POWER SECTOR IN INDIA.
DR.A.JAGADEESH NELLORE(AP),INDIA
E-MAIL:ANUMAKONDA.JAGADEESH@GMAIL.COM

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