Saturday, December 6, 2014

The great solar energy boom! Where does India stand?

Solar energy has been around for almost 35 years and it was considered a poor cousin of the cheap fossil fuel because of the extremely high cost of solar panels during early stages of development. Look at the situation to day where every country, fearful of an energy crunch in not too distant future, are falling over each other to set up large solar energy plants to generate power. One of the main reasons for this dramatic change is the fast declining prices of solar panels and their high production in countries like China and the US. The early leaders in this alternate sustainable energy quest has been the European Union which at time accounted for almost half of global capacity for production of electricity via the solar route. Time seemed to have changed with Asian countries and South American nations sparing no efforts to cash in on this boom with the result that Europeans account for only a quarter of the solar energy produced to day. This is indeed a welcome news, especially to emerging economies like India, Brazil and others which face enormous power crunch putting constraints on their developmental programs. The amazing turn around in the solar energy industry is illustrated by a report put out by market experts, excerpts of which are reproduced below.

"That's the thing about exponential growth. It doesn't look like much at first, but soon enough, you have something big enough to change the world... According to numbers compiled by Solarbuzz, the global solar photovoltaic (PV) industry only had an installed base of 5 gigawatts in 2005 - and remember, solar panels have been around for decades, so it took a long time to even get to that 5 GW - and their are forecast to end this year close to 200 GW! Talk about rapid growth! And the beauty is that we haven't seen anything yet. Look at the graphs below to get an idea of just how fast solar PV costs have been dropping: Growth should accelerate further over the next decade as solar becomes significantly cheaper than other sources of electricity, including polluting fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. What's interesting about the solar power boom is that it's not being led by a single place anymore. At first, Europe was a clear leader thanks to very generous incentives. About 10 years ago, EU countries accounted for over half of annual demand for solar PV. But lately, they've only been around a quarter of demand, with Asian countries picking up the slack, and North-America finally joining the party in a big way. But hey, this party's just getting started!"

From 2005 till to date solar power sector has surged from 5 gigawatts (gw) base to 200 gw, a 40 fold growth within a span of 10 years, fantastic measured by any yard stick. With the photovoltaic panels costing less and less further dramatic growth ahead is becoming more and more feasible. The cost per watt of photovoltaic module plummeted from a perch, about $ 20 in 1980 to less than a dollar to day! In India also solar energy is going to subsume all others within a matter of few years, Being one of the major fossil fuel importing countries in the world, India has very high incentive to go for solar energy which at presents constitutes less than 1% of the total energy generated, about 1000 mw out of 200.000 mw. Even nuclear energy produced accounts for 2% of the energy landscape of the country . With the new government's resolve to provide 24x7 electricity to every home by the year 2019, India has to use its abundant supply of sun light during 300-330 days of the year to fulfill this dream. 


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