Friday, February 27, 2015

Solar power mission-A new thrust in the offing?

The growth of solar power generation has been phenomenal since 2010 and the output reached more than 3000 MW by 2014, expecting to attain a target of 100,000 MW by 2020. Government of India recently indicated in its Economic Survey that it intends to accelerate the pace of growth of this sector providing all the supports necessary. This is indeed welcome because India is suffering from acute shortage of power, estimated at 10-13% of the daily demand and solar power generated by giant projects like the one in the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan capable of producing 4000 MW can provide great relief. Power and infrastructure are crucial if the government's "Make in India" dream is to fructify. Here is what the Survey tells us about the intention of the government and the country better succeed in this endeavor if further economic progress is to be achieved.

"The country's National solar Mission is being scaled up five-fold to 1,00,000 megawatts by 2022, says the Economic Survey for 2014-2015. "In the next five years proposals are likely to generate business opportunities of the order of $160 billion in the renewable energy sector," the survey says."It offers very good opportunity for businesses to set and scale up industry, leapfrog technologies and create volumes. Some of India's major immediate plans on renewable energy include scaling up cumulative installed capacity to 170 gegawatts (GW) and establishing a National University for Renewable Energy," it adds.
One of the major road blocks the country has to overcome is scarcity of land for setting up big scale plants while land acquisition poses another challenge. Currently we are witnessing the political charade being played out in the country by opposition parties and some NGOs in the name of a well meaning Ordinance that wants to accelerate pace of industrialization by making land acquisition with minimum hassles and fast. Solar power generation needs about a square kilometer of land for every 20-60 MW power out put and unless the plant size is big enough the cost of production cannot be brought down to make solar power competitive with others. A kWh power from imported coal is estimated to cost Rs 4-5 while solar power may cost Rs 7 per kWh till recently. Probably with lower cost solar panels being offered by China and increasing the capacity of the new plants to achieve scale of economy, the cost can be brought down to about Rs 5 per mWh soon. If the present government continues with its present strategy, India may become an energy self sufficient nation in not distant a future..


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