[In continuation with our coverage on Solar Energy in India, we look at the current landscape in India.]

India has a great potential to generate electricity from solar energy.

Some main drivers for solar power plants in India are:
1) To meet India’s growing energy demand – the non-renewable sources of energy may not cope-up with that demand with its robust economic & population growth. Renewable sources are one of the solutions this constant issue, in the long term.

2) Increased focus on Green technology – with increased focus in the recent years the idea of solar plants will be encouraged ex: Solar water heating

3) Support from Government – Government is helping in the form of various subsidies, rebate on interest to solar energy based industries, technology-transfer agreement with countries, to name a few. This will attract more new players or established businesses to invest in solar plants. For ex: Wind energy power sector saw good growth in the past, when subsidies were introduced.

4) India is also in a good position because of the intense heat. “Arid regions receive plentiful solar radiation,” says Dr. M. N. Nahar, principal scientist of the Division of Agriculture and Energy at the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI). In computed global solar radiation of arid stations in the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana, it was found that Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, receives the maximum radiation at 6.27 kWh/m2 per day; the average daily duration of bright sunshine in Jodhpur, Rajasthan is 8.9 hours.

Some benefits India can reap from solar Energy applications:
1) Lesser pollution. How? According to a report, (http://cat.inist.fr/aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=14112184), the average intensity of solar radiation received on India is 200 MW/km2. Even if 10% of this area is used, the solar energy that can be made available to us would be 8 million MW (equivalent to 5909 mtoe: million tons of oil equivalent) per year – this leads to less pollution by that amount

2) It can help India to reduce its import bills significantly if solar energy can be used for domestic purposes as well (Ex: cooking, heating, drying etc…).

3) Thermal solar energy can be used for water heating, cooking, drying, water distillation, refrigeration, and space heating and cooling. “One of the most crucial of these uses is cooking, as half the total energy consumed in developing countries is used in the domestic cooking sector” according to Nahar

4) Finally, it’s a step towards achieving of Vision 20-20 target of becoming energy independent

Talk of solar energy usage in India, what have we been successful at?

  • Did we know that there are 500,000 plus solar cookers in use today?
  • Did we know that we have the world’s largest solar cooking venue in Tirupati ? This place provides food for more than 15,000 people each day using these solar panels
  • Did we know that India is the only country which has a separate ministry for alternative energy?

Where do we stand?

Look at the solar technology and it is mainly divided into thermal and photovoltaic.

Thermal solar power uses the heat of the sun, and photovoltaics, or PV, is the technology that converts its light directly into electricity.

Rajasthan_Solar_Yard

"A “Solar Yard” in the sunny state of Rajasthan, India"

In India:

  • the second method has been very successful. Ex: Solar water heaters. They are a hit in India, with most households adopting them. Number of players or suppliers in the market is also increasing.
  • the first method first option has been partially successful in India. For getting good at this, we need to master the process of ‘Silicon Wafer making’ – which we have not yet achieved. For developing successful product and for sustenance, we need make our own silicon wafers.

Alternatives have been suggested; for ex: screen printing of semiconducting material or other photovoltaic material on insulating base (ceramic or glass). This is being tried out. Also experiments using organic compounds have also been reported in literature. However, mass production is far away.

The newest and developing fast technology in solar energy generation is thin film technology, however the Indian subsidiary manufacturing plant of Moser Baer is ready for production of thin film photovoltaic modules at Greater Noida, India. The 40MW capacity line is being described as the largest thin film solar line in India. Many Indian startups are also entering this space.

In subsequent posts, I will cover some of the startups who are coming out with solar initiatives. If you are in the know of a ‘sunny startup’, please send me the details (hema @ NextBigWhat.com)