Solar power in India

Solar power in India

India is both densely populated and has high solar insolation, providing an ideal combination for solar power in India. Much of the country does not have an electric grid, so one of the first applications of solar power has been for water pumping, to begin replacing India's four to five million diesel powered water pumps, each consuming about 3.5 kilowatts, and off-grid lighting. Some large projects have been proposed, and a 35,000 km² area of the Thar Desert has been set aside for solar power projects, sufficient to generate 700,000 to 2,100,000 Megawatts.

Annual insolation

With about 300 clear sunny days in a year, India's theoretical solar power reception, just on its land area, is about 5 EWh/year (i.e. = 5000 trillion kWh/yr ~ 600 TW). [ Sustainable production of solar electricity with particular reference to the Indian economy (publication archived in ScienceDirect, shows numbers in detail, but needs subscription / access via university)] ] [ [ Renewing India (look for heading: Solar Photovoltaics)] ] The daily average solar energy incident over India varies from 4 to 7 kWh/m2 with about 2300 - 3200 sunshine hours per year, depending upon location. This is far more than current total energy consumption. For example, even assuming 10% conversion efficiency for PV modules, it will still be thousand times greater than the likely electricity demand in India by the year 2015.

Present Status

Installed capacity

The amount of solar energy produced in India is merely 0.5 % compared to other energy resources. [ India's Solar Power GREENING INDIA'S FUTURE ENERGY DEMAND ] ] The Grid-interactive solar power as of June, 2007 was merely 2.12 MW. [ [ Estimated medium-term(2032) potential and cumulative achievements on Renewable energy as on 30-06.2007] ] Government-funded solar energy in India only accounted forapproximately 6.4 megawatt-years of power as of 2005.

till unaffordable

Solar power is currently prohibitive due to high initial costs of deployment. For spawning a thriving solar market, the technology needs to be competitively cheaper - i.e. attaining cost parity with fossil or nuclear energy. India is heavily dependent on coal and foreign oil - a phenomenon likely to continue until non-fossil / renewable energy technology become economically viable in the country. [ [,%20Indias%20energy%20needs%20final%20rev%20v2.pdf India's energy needs] Lowy Institute] [ [ India’s Solar Dream] ] The cost of production ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 30 per unit compared to around Rs 2 to Rs 6 per unit for conventional thermal energy. [ India fast emerging as a solar hub] ]

Government policy

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) [ [ MNRE] ] have initiated schemes and incentives - like subsidy, soft loan, confessional duty on raw material imports, excise duty exemption on certain devices/systems etc - to boost the production and use of solar energy systems. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) [ [ IREDA] ] provides revolving fund to financing and leasing companies offering affordable credit for the purchase of PV systems. An Expert Committee constituted by the Planning Commission has prepared an Integrated Energy Policy which envisions a 10 million square meter solar collector area, to be set up by 2022, and capable of conserving electricity equivalent to that generated from a 500 MW power plant. The state of West Bengal has intitiated to make the use of solar power mandatory in new multi-storeyed buildings. [ [ Mandatory solar power in buildings in WB] ] However the Indian government support is insignificant compared to the support solar enery receives by governments in Europe and East Asia.

olar Funds and Investments

With high deployment price as the main hurdle before a solar market, various organisations have developed innovative funding schemes to catalyse solar's attractiveness. [ Solar loans] ] [ [ SELF] ] One of the most successful example is the solar loan programme in India, sponsored by UNEP in partnership with two of India's major banking groups - Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, and their sponsored Grameen Banks. It was a four-year $7.6 million effort, launched in April 2003 to help accelerate the market for financing solar home systems in southern India. Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 percent is permitted in non-conventional energy sector through the automatic route. The Multilateral Development Banks like World Bank and Asian Development Bank are also helping India but, the funding from MDBs on solar energy enhancement is negligible compare to other clean energy support in India. Investment by private companies is a trend that has just started. (Examples include Signet Solar, U.S.-based Cypress Semiconductor, SunTechnics Energy, etc.)

Thar desert

In 1996 Amoco/Enron Solar Power Development planned to build a 50 MW solar photovoltaic plant in the Thar desert near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan state. [ [ Activities in 1996] ] Two other projects were proposed, one a 50 MW photovoltaics plant and the other a 200 MW solar chimney. None of these have been completed. The Rajashtan government, however, has set aside a 35,000 km² area of the Thar desert for solar power. [ [ Rajasthan's Solar Revolution] ]

PV manufacture in India

Current PV manufacturing in India includes:
* BP-Tata joint venture [ BP Solar to Expand Its Solar Cell Plants in Spain and India] ]
* Moser-Baer signed up for a thin film Si plant provided by Applied Materials [ [ India fast emerging as a solar hub] ]
* Solar Semiconductor Pvt in Hyderabad, AP [ [ Solar Semiconductor to Set Up 50 MW Module Assembly Line in India ] ]

olar engineering training

The Australian government has awarded UNSW A$5.2 million to train next-generation solar energy engineers from Asia-Pacific nations, specifically India and China, as part of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP). [ [ Australia to train solar engineers from developing countries] ] Certain programmes are designed to target for rural solar usage development. [ [ Barefoot college solar programme] ]


Rural electrification

Lack of electricity infrastructure is one of the main hurdles in the development of rural India. India's grid system is considerably under-developed, with major sections of its populace still surviving off-grid. As on 2004 there are about 80,000 unelectrified villages in the country. Of these villages, 18,000 could not be electrified through extension of the conventional grid. A target for electrifying 5000 such villages was fixed for the Tenth National Five Year Plan (2002-2007). As on 2004, more than 2700 villages and hamlets had been electrified mainly using SPV systems. Developments on cheap solar technology is considered as a potential alternative that allows an electricity infrastructure comprising of a network of local-grid clusters with distributed electricity generation. That could allow bypassing, or at least relieving the need of installing expensive, and lossy, long-distance centralised power delivery systems and yet bring cheap electricity to the masses.

Agricultural support

Water pumping

Solar PV water pumping systems are used for irrigation and drinking water. The majority of the pumps are fitted with a 200 watt - 3,000 watt motor that are powered with 1,800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 liters of water/day from a total head of 10 meters. By 30th September, 2006, a total of 7,068 solar PV water pumping systems have been installed.

Harvest processing

Solar driers are used to dry harvests before storage. [ [ Solar chilli drier] ]


Another e.g. is the cost of energy expended on temperature control - a factor squarely influencing regional energy intensity. With cooling load demands being roughly in phase with the sun's intensity, cooling from intense solar radiation could be an attractive energy-economic option in the subcontinent. [ [ Solar Cooling] German report ] [ [ Paper presented at International Conference on Solar Air Conditioning, Germany] ] [ [ Solar Cooling - Case Studies] ]

Challenges and Constraints

Land scarcity

Per capita land availabiity is a scarce resource in India. Dedication of land area for exclusive installation of solar cells might have to compete with other necessities that require land. The amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants - currently approximately 1 km² for every 20-60 megawatts (MW) generated - could pose a strain on India's available land resource. The architecture more suitable for most of India would be a highly distributed, individual rooftop power generation systems, all connected via a local grid. However, erecting such an infrastructure - which doesn't enjoy the economies of scale possible in mass utility-scale solar panel deployment - needs the market price of solar technology deployment to substantially decline so that it attracts the individual and average family size household consumer. That might be possible in the future, since PV is projected to continue its current cost reductions for the next decades and be able to compete with fossil fuel.

low progress

While the world has progressed substantially in production of basic silicon mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells, India has fallen short to achieve the worldwide momentum. India has now on the 7th place worldwide in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cell production and 9th place in Solar Thermal Systems with nations like Japan, Europe, China, and the US currently ranked far ahead. Globally, solar is the fastest growing source of energy (though from a small base) with an annual average growth of 35%, as seen during the past few years. [ [ Solar India 2007] ]

Latent potential

Major think-tanks have designed blueprints for India's transition to renewable energy - that rein on its carbon emissions, without compromising its economic growth. [ [ Energy (R)evolution: A sustainable Energy Outlook for India] ] [ Greenpeace announces comprehensive energy strategy for India to tackle Climate Change without compromising economic development] ] In one of the envisioned scenarios, renewable resources like solar could become the backbone of India’s economy by 2050. Being a densely populated region [ [ NASA population density map] ] in the sunny tropical belt, [ Energy-Atlas Solar radiation] ] India's very long-term solar potential has been observed to be unparalleled in the world, since the subcontinent has the ideal combination of both high solar insolation and a big potential consumer base density. [ [ Solar LEDs Brighten Rural India's Future] ] [ [ Solar plan for Indian computers] ] [ [ Barefoot solar engineers] ] [ [ Solar powered rickshaw] ]

ee also

*Indian Solar Loan Programme
*Energy policy of India
*Energy security
*Solar power in South Asia
*Renewable energy in developing countries


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