Solar Revolution: The India story

  Pallavi Ghosh |     June 3, 2019

Just step into your house and look around, all our appliances, from our refrigerator to air-conditioner to smartphones, everything would become useless in a world without electricity. This is why electricity is considered one the most valuable commodities in the world.

We also know that with rapid economic growth and urbanisation, there has been an increase in energy demand and consumption. India and China, two of the fastest growing economies in the Asian subcontinent, are no different in this respect. In 2018, India, China and the US accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the rise in global energy demand, said a recent report released by the International Energy Agency (iea).

During 2018, some 350 GW of installed capacity was added to the power network in India. Of this, more than half came from coal. Developing countries like India and China, also two of the world’s most populated countries, have the daunting task of finding sustainable and affordable electricity solutions for billions. Therefore, much like the rest of the world, coalbased thermal plants are still the leading source of electricity in both the Asian countries, whereas oil is the second major source.

However, energy from renewable resources like the sun, wind, water and nuclear reactors are slowly showing us the road to a cleaner future.

To lower the dependence on coal, Government of India has set a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. At present, India has a total RE capacity of 89.22 GW (as on September 30, 2020), according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

There will come a day when renewable energy would be used to power not only our homes and industries but even our cars, trains and some day, may be even our aeroplanes. And for India in particular, that day may not be very far. According to a 2018 study published by the University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, India has the capacity to operate entirely on renewables by 2050.

Solar power in India

From the world’s first fully solar-powered airport in Kerala to the largest solar rooftop installation on a cricket stadium in Mumbai, India has made giant leaps in the field of solar energy. Thanks to the falling prices of solar installations in India, sourcing energy from the sun to meet our energy needs is no longer a luxurious enterprise. Take the Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan for example. Hundreds of solar panels are seen glistening in this over 45 square kilometre stretch of the Thar dessert.

The journey of solar power in India has undoubtedly been remarkable but there are emerging challenges that call our attention. According to “The State of Renewable Energy in India” report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (cse), the country's focus has mostly been on large scale solar installations and household supply constitutes only a small pie (roughly 15 per cent) of the total installed capacity of 3,399 megawatts (mw) until September, 2018.

Reservations regarding cost and energy efficiency have been major factors for this. Despite the fall of prices and government subsidies, individual consumers are reluctant to invest in a technology that they know little about. Added costs such as money spent on the inverter and battery (prices of which are high) also deter individuals from investing in solar rooftops.

The road ahead

Over 30 lakh homes continue to be in the dark in India, according to government data. While solar energy has been able to power our railway platforms, government offices, street lights and other public spaces, it has not been able to act as a revolutionary force for those who need it the most. And it is here that solar rooftops can play a key role. They can help provide clean energy to the poorest of poor in our country who are forced to live in the dark even today.

Not only this, surplus energy generated from srts can be connected to the main grid, thereby improving the supply network.

Globally, for every unit of power consumed, measured in kwh, 800 g to 1 kg co2 gets released into the atmosphere. Just ask for the electricity bill at home and check the units consumed. For example, if the monthly consumption is 450 units, then this would add up to 450 kg of co2 emissions.

Now imagine that your house is operating completely on solar energy, you would save over 5,000 kg of co2 emissions in a year! Since energy conversion takes place at an atomic level, solar energy does not emit co2.

About the Author

Reporter-cum-Sub Editor (2018–2020), Gobar Times

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