A New Dawn of the Sun

By Ruth D’souza

Upon every veteran Xavierite’s post pandemic return to college, perhaps a slightly less noticeable detail evident only after careful observation were the newly fixed solar panels on the roof of the college. This change is noticeable in a number of other places too, proof of the fact that India’s solar power capacity has amped up 11 times in the past 5 years. Our country also moved past Italy, positioning itself in the 5th spot of solar power deployment. India is a land that has looked upon the Sun as a life giving source since ancient days. The past years have shown progress in utilizing the region’s  tremendous solar energy potential but are we anywhere near fulfilling the dream, or does India have a long way to go before we achieve our solar dream?

Breaking down the basics

Cleaner energy sources are all the rage and economies around the world are now turning towards sources that are more sustainable and long lasting, one of which is the Sun.

As an alternative to conventional energy sources, solar energy makes use of either of the following technologies

  1. PV(Photovoltaic) systems which utilise most commonly seen solar panels. The functioning of solar panels is simple. The Sun’s energy is absorbed by PV cells present on the panel causing electricity to flow owing to the electrical charges generated in response to an internal electric field in the cell. India ranked 3rd worldwide in added PV capacity in 2021
  2. The second source is CSP or concentrated solar power systems. CSP makes use of mirrors which reflect sunlight onto receivers that convert the solar energy into heat which is later used for electricity generation.

India’s solar power journey has made significant progress of achieving over 50 GW in 2022, a big push from the meagre 10 MW in 2010. The target is deployment of 500 GW by 2030, the major chunk of which is expected from PV systems. But even as solar power materialises as a promise of hope for the country, certain challenges to growth have emerged.

Solar Power and the Economy

India’s commitment to make use of clean energy sources for economic growth is manifested in its ever growing solar energy consumption. The development of the solar sector is a stepping stone towards self reliance in the following ways:

  1. Creation of employment opportunities
  2. Development of the rural sector
  3. Lowering the expense of fuel import bills
  4. No reliance on oil producing nations
  5. Enhancing the quality of life with a cleaner greener environment

Winding obstacles

India is one of the fastest growing economies which indicates a growing dependency on energy imports. This is the main reason why optimal utilisation of our renewable energy sources is the perfect companion for our journey of growth. Among the expanse of sources, solar energy is the most vastly utilised with the solar installed capacity witnessing a 200% year-on-year growth.

Unfortunately in the solar power sector too, India is heavily reliant on China. Average annual solar power demand in the country is about 20GW out of which India’s manufacturing capacity is currently able to fulfil only 3 GW. In the last five years, total solar equipment import stands at around $16 billion which is estimated to reach around $42 by 2030.

Strategies for a sunny tomorrow 

The manufacturing of solar equipment takes place in the following four phases:

The holdup for India lies in the production of semiconductors. To overcome this issue and move a step closer towards self sufficiency in manufacturing processes, India requires a strategy that surrounds three pillars

  1. A defining strategy for increased semiconductor manufacturing
  2. Renewed policies for subsidised solar manufacturing
  3. Reduction in the cost of capital loans

India also lacks technological expertise in certain production processes and hence needs to step up its development of solar power manufacturing technology.

In the declaration of the Union Budget 2022, a total of 195 billion was allocated to incentivise indigenous equipment production. Efforts made to extend the Make-In-India campaign will also encourage the solar power sector where currently 80% of hardware tools are being imported from China . Additionally, the announced 40% and 25% tax on solar modules and solar cells respectively will promote a shift towards a self-reliant manufacturing model.

So far, our country has been maintaining the balance between economy and environment by making use of its vastly favourable geographical location which has been a catalyst for the solar power sector. With added support of government policies like incentive schemes for the production of PV panels, our economy has been thriving in the renewable energy sector. Catering to the needs of a complex developing nation is never easy but adopting solar technology can transform trials into triumphs while also fueling economic growth.

References :

Mohanka, G. (2022). How India can bag the solar superpower tag. Times of India Blog. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/how-india-can-bag-the-solar-superpower-tag/

Ortiz, A., Negandhi, D., Mysorekar, S.R. et al. An Artificial Intelligence Dataset for Solar Energy Locations in India. Sci Data 9, 497 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-022-01499-9 

Insights into Editorial: India’s solar capacity: Milestones and challenges – INSIGHTSIAS. INSIGHTSIAS. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.insightsonindia.com/2022/03/19/insights-into-editorial-indias-solar-capacity-milestones-and-challenges/

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