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India basks in solar glory

According to reports, from Ladakh in the north to Madurai in the south, solar power is turning India into a hot destination for clean energy investments from across the globe.

The good news comes at a time when money flow into low-carbon economies is falling across the world. The investment is all the more welcome because India has suffered its lowest economic growth (5%) in a decade.

“The investment in clean technologies increased by 11% in 2012 in India, second largest after China,” planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said at the recent clean energy ministerial forum in Delhi.

With around 44% of Indian villages without regular power connection and peak time power deficit of 8-10%, solar power is a viable option for policymakers. In just five years, states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, which get more than 300 days of bright sun in a year, have made the most from solar revolution. Gujarat and Rajasthan have increased their solar generation by over five times in this period, while other states have more than doubled their capacity. Around 700 million square hectares in India have solar installations.

Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary in-charge of solar mission in the ministry of new and renewable energy, said solar power could be cheaper than the conventional coal-based electricity in 2014. The generation cost of solar power has dipped from R17 per unit in 2008-09 to R6.45 in Rajasthan and R6.49 in Tamil Nadu now. It is expected to come down to Rs. 6 by the end of 2013.

The solar energy sector is also seeing a healthy competition between states. Maharashtra first came up with India’s biggest solar farm of 125 MW. The record may not stand for long. Madhya Pradesh is gearing up to commission a solar station of 151 MW in August. It would not be a surprise if Gujarat upgrades its solar farm to claim the record.

Though solar energy has taken big strides in recent year, conventional thermal power will remain India’s main energy source in the foreseeable future. “One of the (obvious) problems with solar energy is its unavailability in peak hours (early morning and late evenings),” said a planning commission official.

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