The explosion in the use of Solar power in India over the past recent years shows no signs of slowing with government targets actively being met and a new enthusiasm in the private sector adding to the boom
Despite getting a bit of a bad wrap being an incredibly unenvironmentally friendly country, solar power in India has largely been a massive success at least far more successful than predicted by most. This has all resulted because of an almost perfect combination of factors from within India and without affecting both fiscal and governmental policy at many levels.
India has an incredibly dense population while at the same time has an almost uniform and immense exposure to solar radiation making it an ideal place for getting maximum benefit from solar power.
Below: India's forst solar city, Agartala in Tripura is planned at a cost of approximately Rs.452.32 crore as part of a plan that will see up to 60 new solar cities in India by 2020
In late 2009, the often environmentally lackadaisical government unexpectedly brought forward a target to spend over $19 Billion on solar power over the next 12 years, a target that if reached (many are highly pessimistic) will produce roughly 20 GW. India currently produces roughly 1000 MW of power.
Above: Solar power in India is becoming common place with solar farms like the one above in Belgaum cropping up all over the place. India plans to generate over 20GW from solar power to make up far a large power deficit within the grid.
This ambitious proposal has been brought about by the immense changes (social mobility and economically) that India has been going through over the past 20 years.
The booming middle class fueled by rapid economic growth are screaming for resources which has led the country into an almost %14 energy deficit. This coupled with the dramatic reduction in the cost of solar panels, mainly from China, over the past 8 years have led to the solar boom that is now taking place in this amazing country.
The government are also greatly responsible for this solar explosion. New schemes now mean that all new government buildings and most old will be fitted with solar panels as well as hospitals. Other incentives have seen the private sector jumping at the bit to get there hands on solar panels with hotels and warehouses.
India houses almost 17% of the worlds population, 70% of who live in rural areas. As well as this India has a very high level of solar radiation and high population density all which make solar power a perfect solution to the country's aging power grid and serious energy deficit.
Despite some of the larger projects which focus on turning entire cities into 'solar cities' and the construction of huge solar farms in regions such as the Thar desert, the future of solar power in India will focus on supplying power to the rural areas in what could be called 'microsolar'.
Here are some example of microsolar projects taking place in India at the moment.
A company called D.light has been providing people in rural areas with solar lanterns and has seen massive success around the developing world. Their website claims that over 10 million lives have been empowered by their products.
Below: An Indian girl in Gujarat makes use of her D.light solar lantern to study. The family otherwise have no other means for lighting.
SunEdison, a company who are managing mostof the larger solar projects in North India are also experimenting with solar panels in rural areas of India. The project itself involves 29 villages for which it will create, install and run solar power systems which will be funded through a combination of private investments, government grants and other corporations.
A start-up company called Simpa networks is currently running a service whereby residences, usually in poor and rural areas, can use solar panels through a mobile pay as you use policy. A household has to pay a small amount of money for the initial unit and then they pay only for the power they use. The units are not big, only about 60 Watts which is enough for some lights, small battery chargers and maybe a laptop on a sunny day.
Below: A man fits a Simpa Network solar panel above a home in West India
Solar power in India is a thriving industry and is growing faster than anywhere in the world. This partly due to the power of rural development but the large solar power projects are currently making the biggest difference.
Theoretically, India has approximately 290 sunny days a year and a land area of about 3.287,000km² resulting in a solar saturation of about 5000 Petawatt-hours per year - which is a lot by anyones standard. Perhaps the sunniest place in India and the best place for large scale solar farms in the Thar Desert.
Actually the largest solar farm in India is not actually completed yet but when it is it will produce in excess of 500 mega watts which will make it the biggest solar energy producing power plant in the world. when it is finished, towards the end of 2014, it will cover over 2000 hectares at a total cost of approximately $280 million.
Above: India's largest solar power plant which is based in Gujarat. It currently produces 214MW of power making it the biggest in Asia, 14MW more than China's Golmud park.
The Image below represent levels of solar radiation across India. The dark purple area represents the highest solar radiation for solar power in India. Most of this area is Gujarat which already produces 50% of the countries entire solar output.
This short video gives a great summary of Solar power in India including why it is needed so much and how it is changing the environment and peoples live.
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