India is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Not only is it the third-largest democracy in the world but it also has some of the most impressive renewable energy resources. There is no country where solar power is more prominent than India; the sun shines brightly there and provides a renewable energy source that is perfect for pumping water and generating electricity.
For decades, India preferred to depend on fossil fuels for their energy needs. However, with the increasing costs of these fuels and the environmental ramifications associated with them, the country is turning to renewable resources to power their homes and businesses. Solar power is quickly becoming immensely popular and economical there, as the costs have come down and the technology has improved. A study by the Energy Research Institute (iERI) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) showed that the installation of solar power units was nearly 40% cheaper than the traditional electricity sources in the region.
The Rise In Popularity
The study also showed that nearly 90% of the respondents were either very likely or somewhat likely to purchase a solar-powered unit. The popularity of solar energy in India is apparent, and it’s being used in a variety of ways.
One of the earliest and most innovative solar initiatives in India was the nation’s first rooftop solar power plant. In 2014, the country installed 200 MW of rooftop solar plants, which is the equivalent of a conventional power plant. That same year, India became the fourth-largest market for solar power systems globally, which helped contribute to a 28% increase in the overall market size.
Another popular and growing market in India is small-scale solar power systems, which generate anywhere from a few watts to a few hundred watts. These units are completely mobile and can be installed almost anywhere, even in the middle of the country, where electricity lines are not yet available. The potential to provide electricity to rural areas and villages is great with these smaller solar systems, as they can literally change the lives of everyone who uses them. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of these systems have been sold in India and thousands of them are already in operation.
How Is It Being Used?
Solar power is being used in a variety of ways in India. One exciting and innovative project is a partnership between a California-based solar company, SunPower, and the state-run power firm, NTPC. Under the terms of the agreement, SunPower will build and operate six solar power plants in India, each one capable of generating 100 MW of clean energy. The first phase of the project is already complete, and SunPower has signed a contract to provide power to the state of Tamil Nadu for the next 25 years. SunPower India will purchase the electricity generated from the solar power stations and sell it to the public through the grid.
Meanwhile, in another part of the country, villagers in the state of Kerala are reputed to have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching to solar energy. The state electricity board had previously provided electricity to the area and had installed a number of traditional power plants in the region. However, the villages quickly realized that they could generate their own electricity and save a great deal of money, especially when the sun is shining and the electricity is cheap.
The villagers pooled their resources and purchased 25 MW of solar power plants from a company based in Hong Kong. The village of Kayakinga had almost 200 households and 1,500 people before the installation of the solar power plant. Since then, the village has grown and now has 3,000 households and 4,000 people. Through the sale of surplus power to the state electricity company, the villagers earn a significant income and are able to better their lives. With the income they generate, the villagers are able to improve their living conditions and provide better education and healthcare for their young children.
Where Does It Come From?
The Indian government supports and promotes renewable energy initiatives, and this is clearly reflected in the nation’s energy policies and development plans. In the long term, the government hopes that a shift to more sustainable energy sources will help to reduce India’s dependence on fossil fuels and prevent environmental damage. In the short term, the focus is on increasing the use of renewable energy to power India’s homes and businesses. This is intended to reduce the amount of toxins in the air and water and contribute to reduce climate change. Indeed, India’s plan is to wean itself from fossil fuels and establish itself as a renewable energy superpower.
In order to do this, the country must overcome many obstacles. One of the main challenges is the supply side, as it tries to meet the demand for electricity which is expected to double by 2022. To accomplish this, the government is encouraging businesses to shift to solar energy and wind power generation and is working to ensure that the needed infrastructure is in place to support and accommodate this change.
The Challenges Ahead
Despite these huge opportunities, there are a few challenges that the Indian renewable energy sector faces. One of the biggest is security. With the increasing dependence on renewable sources for energy, there is the possibility that terrorist organizations could target these facilities and harm innocent people. The government must work to ensure the safety of those who use and generate electricity through renewable sources.
Another challenge is transmission and distribution. In many regions of the country, the electricity supply is either unreliable or simply doesn’t exist. In these places, people have to rely on expensive diesel generators to provide power for their homes. In order to eliminate this problem, the government has created a special fund to finance the upgrading of the nation’s power infrastructure and the construction of new power lines. This project will cost over US$16 billion and take nearly 20 years to complete.
The government is also working to encourage industries to shift to renewable energy sources by providing them with special tax breaks and reducing their electricity costs. However, not all industries are convinced that switching to renewable sources is the best option. Some industries, like food processing and pharmaceuticals, rely on continuous electricity to operate and cannot easily switch to alternative sources. The government is also working to ensure that these industries can continue to operate as they have in the past and provide the necessary jobs for the locals. These are just some of the many challenges that the Indian renewable energy sector faces, and the government is working hard to overcome them. With continued research and development, innovative ideas, and a little bit of government initiative, India could become a major power in the global renewable energy market.