Energy 2.0

Sunny Side Up

Posted on: May 21, 2008

Meanwhile, consumers the world over are choosing solar power, partly for the incentives and partly for environmental concerns. Even China is expected to shine in this area soon.

Eventually, the Indian market will also grow because of the subcontinent’s size and climate, but we lack research. “The manufacture of photovoltaic cells is a volumes game but India does not have a large silicon production base,” says J. Gururaja, a former advisor to United Nations’ department of economic and social affairs. “A 1-GW (gigawatt) production of photovoltaic cells will bring cost down by half. “

Countries such as the US and Germany incentivised the industry in its early years. These countries provide leased land, built solar specific special economic zones and feed-in facilities to supply power to the grid directly (and received credits for it) and underwrote research expenses.

Early this year, India’s government announced incentives for the semiconductor industry. The market took this as a positive sign even though it is largely determined by retail sales, principally of water heaters, which are largely incentive-driven. Scattered statistics add up to some semblance of a silver lining — over 500,000 solar cookers are in use around India. The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam heats 100,000 litres of water a day using solar power. The government, in its 2022 Plan, talks about making solar-powered systems mandatory in hotels and hospitals.

Research shows that economics determines consumer decisions to use solar energy in homes. This has slowed down adoption in India. “What is the point in having a solar water heater when water is not hot in the morning?” asks S.S.Ramalingam, a retired accountant who lives near Chennai. He decided against installing solar water heaters in his house.

Future Solar stations will be connected to the grid. India still fares poorly on solar electricity generation, but the government has set a target of 10 power plants of 1-MW each. State electricity boards have been asked to use at least 0.2 per cent of the electricity they generate from grid-connected photovoltaic projects by 2011. This is just a tiny bit of hope when compared to what is already taking place in developed countries. Compare this to India’s potential for solar power generation — 600 GW. You get the picture.

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