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India is the Sun's most favored nation, blessed with about 5,000 trillion kWh of solar energy every year. India should tap this vast resource to satisfy its growing energy demand. Time is of the essence. Even if a tenth of this potential were utilized, it would be the end of power problems in India. India's deserts and farm land are the sunniest in the world, and thus suitable for large-scale power production. India can lead the world by embracing the power of the sun, if smart business models and favorable policies can be developed and implemented nationwide as quickly as possible. For more details, please read my two papers, "How Concentrated Solar Power Can Meet India's Future Power Needs," and "Solar Farming Potential in India."
The Indian Government should embrace favorable tax structures and consider providing financial resources to fund projects to put up community solar farms as part of their energy development programs. "India can be a great power, ushering in a game changing third industrial revolution by utilizing its renewable energy resources and collaborating with power producers and suppliers", says American economist and author Jeremy Rifkin. India can become the Saudi Arabia of clean Solar Energy.
Despite the worldwide recession, the photovoltaic (PV) industry has demonstrated unprecedented growth over the past years, with increased demand for solar power attracting more and more players into the market. The price of solar panels fell 47 percent in 2011, according to Bloomberg. This has made the business case for solar more competitive because the PV in some parts of the world has already reached grid parity and it will soon be below the $1/Watt cost target for most of the world, sometime in 2012. This is making solar technology more competitive with traditional energy sources. Solar energy is a Win-Win situation for India and the environment. India can be a great power using more renewable energy, specifically Solar Energy. India should make Solar Energy a mainstream component of energy diversification. There is really no better economical choice for India.
Why India needs Solar Energy Now?
India has tremendous energy needs and an increasing difficulty in meeting those requirements through traditional means of generation. Electricity consumption in India has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world due to population growth and economic development. Indian economy faces increasing challenges because energy supply is struggling to keep pace with increasing demand, and there are continues energy shortages between 10%-13% percent of daily need almost everywhere in the country. Because India has so many black-outs, many factories and homes use emergency diesel generators as back-ups. This back-up power could be more cheaply supplied by Solar Energy.
The Solar Energy has the potential to transform the Indian economy in a way the information technology (IT) and auto industry transformed the Indian economy in the 90s. India is in a unique position to introduce innovative, clean energy solutions on an enormous scale to provide affordable energy for everyone, especially the poor. To meet these future energy challenges India should use Renewable Energy resources for all future energy demands including Solar and Wind.
India should take full advantage of this golden opportunity because Solar energy has particular relevance in remote and rural areas, where around 289 million people live without access to electricity in India today. Solar energy is the best cost-effective option for India to eliminate energy poverty without extending national grid services to provide power for individual homes and buildings.
Renewable Energy is the most attractive investment because it will provide a long-term economic growth for the country. The favorable renewable energy policy could create millions of jobs and an economic stimulus of at least $1 trillion and perhaps much more if all indirect economic (ripple) effects are included. "India is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy sources and if properly utilized, India can realize its place in the world as a great power," said Jeremy Rifkin.
How Solar Energy can work for India
India needs a plan with the same spirit, boldness and the imagination of the Apollo program that put astronauts on the Moon. It's just like the case of personnel computers that were very expensive but with mass production and usage the cost of the computers has come down dramatically. The technology is well established and available today. All that is needed now to make this concept a reality is political commitment and appropriate investments and funding to harness the Solar Energy resource to reduce the India's dependence on fossil fuels. One step toward achieving this goal would be to start a nationwide Solar initiative to facilitating growth in large scale deployment of 100 million solar roofs and large utility-scale generation installations within the next 20 years. India can become a major player and international leader in the Solar Energy for years to come.
The role of the government in establishing the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), which was launched in late 2009, was crucial. The present JNNSM target of producing 10% of its energy - 20,000 MW by 2022 is very low. JNNSM should take bold steps with the help of Central and State Governments to play a major role in realizing India's Solar Energy potential.
The U.S.-India Energy Dialogue, which facilitates discussions on renewable energy and energy efficiency, can be a very useful tool to spark investments in Solar Energy. This can lay the foundation for an energy independent future - one in which the Government of India takes advantage of the vast amounts of energy available from the Rajasthan Desert sun (instead of oil from the Arab nations) to power its future energy needs. In addition, Solar Energy would not only create millions of jobs, but also sustain India's positive economic growth, help lift its massive population out of poverty and combat climate change.
Solar Energy also has the advantage of permitting the decentralized distribution of energy, particularly for meeting rural energy needs, thereby empowering people at the grassroots level. Solar electricity could also shift about 90 percent of daily trip mileage from gasoline to electricity by encouraging increased use of plug-in hybrid cars. For drivers in India this means that the cost per mile could be reduced by one-fourth (in today's prices).
All new energy generation in India could be renewable by 2030, and all pre-existing energy production could be converted to 100% renewable energy by 2050 without great expense while maintaining a reliable power supply. Just imagine houses in villages and cities producing energy through solar power and then selling the same energy to the distribution companies, this will give level-playing field to the rural areas in terms of industrialization. In the coming years government must play a decisive role in India's bright Solar Energy future, on both state and national levels by providing feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme, tax credit and other support in order to realize significant solar plant capacity in India. It would be a serious miscalculation, if India missed out on this singular opportunity.
Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
As Electric Vehicle (EV) enter the mainstream States, corporate planners and municipalities must play a critical role in laying the groundwork toward clean technology within the nation's transportation infrastructure. The develoyment and integration of public charging stations should be made with daily commuting and typical driving habits in mind.
Carmakers in the world market are also moving quickly into the emerging electric vehicle market with several models expected to hit showrooms in 2012. There is growing number of solar companies that are partnering with carmakers to provide solar-powered charging stations both at work and in the garage. SunPower has forged an alliance with Ford, which recently unveiled a "Drive Green for Life" program that will use a 2.5-kilowatt rooftop array to charge the new Ford Focus electric vehicle due to hit the streets in 2012. SunEdison has joined the Pecan Street smart grid demonstration project in Austin, Texas, where it will lead the development of home PV charging stations for the Chevy Volt.
Thousands of these solar-powered recharging stations can be sprouted up across India, just like the present Public Call Office (PCO) giving birth to the "Green Revolution." Many of these recharging connections can be deployed at highly concentrated areas including shopping malls, motels, restaurants, and public places where cars might be parked long enough to get a jolt of needed power for Electric Vehicles.
Many customers who drive electric cars will be able to recharge their vehicles for free while shopping at the stores that are participating in the company's pilot program. This will help bring more customers to the stores. For example, in USA, IKEA and Kohl's, as with many other companies, the EV charging initiatives are part of broader sustainability strategies. Other firms adding charging stations include Lowe's, which is working with GE, and Walgreens, which has made the biggest commitment so far with an initiative to install charging stations at 800 stores.
Solar energy represents a bright spot on India's economic future. If India makes a massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to Solar Energy, it is possible that 70 percent of India's electricity and 35 percent of its total energy could be solar-powered by 2030. This would require the creation of a vast region of photovoltaic cells in the Southwest and other parts of the country that could operate at night as well as during the day. Excess daytime energy can be stored in various forms such as molten or liquid salt (a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate), compressed air, pumped hydro, hydrogen, battery storage, etc., which would be used as an energy source during nighttime hours.
Solar Energy will be competitive with coal as improved and efficient Photovoltaic (PV), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), and Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV), enter the market. I predict that solar farming advancements and growth would empower India's rural economies. To take advantage of low cost renewable Solar Energy, companies will move their operations from urban areas to rural areas due to cheaper land and labor within the solar belt.
I personally think there are no technological or economic barriers to supplying almost 100% of India's energy demand through the use of clean renewable energy from solar, wind, hydro and biogas by 2050. It's time to recognize that our energy must ultimately come from renewable resources, and we must accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. India can ramp up its effort to develop and implement large utility scale Solar Energy farms to meet India's economic development goals. Solar energy will create energy independence and bring potentially enormous environmental benefits. Both issues have a direct influence on national security and the health of the Indian economy. India needs a radical transformation of energy system to the efficient use of renewable energies, especially Solar Energy.
By using renewable resources India can realize its full economic potential and achieve its key social, political, and environmental objectives. The Indian Government should develop favorable government policies to ease the permitting process and to provide start-up capital to promote the exponential growth of Solar Energy to make India's bright future. All that is required is the political will for the eventual shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. India could potentially increase grid-connected solar power generation capacity to over 200,000 MW by 2030, if adequate resources and favorable policies can be developed.
Solar Energy is a game-changing program for India. India should accelerate and encourage the domestic development of Solar Energy now. It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will to achieve this goal to eliminate our wasteful spending and dependence on foreign sources of energy and save our planet. Solar energy has the potential to re-energize India's economy by creating millions of new jobs, achieves energy independence, reduces the trade deficit and propels India forward as a "Green Nation." Solar Energy offers too many benefits for India to ignore or delay its development.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not intended to represent the views or policies of the United States Department of Energy.