With an exponential need in the energy demands of the globe compounded by a decline in the resource availability of fossil fuels, it is not naïve to say that the future is bright for renewable energy, and more specifically, solar. Though today, oil, gas and coal continue to be the leading energy sources, a look into cleaner, efficient and sustainable energy sources like solar would definitely redefine the structure of global energy requirements. In this article, the authors – Namrata Gupta and Sagar Saikat Rath, assess the solar potential of India and the feasibility of going solar in a big way.
This article is written by the authors for ThinktoSustain.com as part of Media/Knowledge Partnership with the event Solar Conclave 2012 held at School of Petroleum Management (SPM), Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), Gujarat, on October 12, 2012.
India, as a country, always faces energy shortage; the gap in demand-supply is approximately 11% (Council, 2012) of the total energy demand. With about 80% of coal being imported, it becomes imperative for India to concentrate on other non-fossil alternatives. Of the total power capacity of 206,526 MW (Statistics, 2012), less than 0.2% is contributed by solar energy currently.
But solar energy continues to boom and grow in prominence, as traditional energy sources seem to face a number of challenges including rising prices, security concerns over dependence on imports from a limited number of countries which have significant fossil fuel supplies, and the growing environmental concerns over the climate change risks associated with power generation using fossil fuels.
Solar power generation has emerged as one of the most rapidly growing renewable sources of electricity. The environmental concerns related to power generation have compounded more after the recent Fukushima accident, wherein a nation depending upon 80% of energy requirements on nuclear energy has now shifted track after the latest nuclear disaster.
India witnesses immense solar energy potential due to its nearness to the equator. Exhibit 2 shows that the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat are the regions with maximum solar energy potential. This, coupled with the availability of barren land, increases the feasibility of solar energy systems in these regions. Considering India’s solar potential, the government has rolled out various policies and subsidy schemes to encourage growth of the solar industry, which is expected to experience exponential growth in the coming years.
Some of the factors, which have led to the recent surge in solar power, include:
a) Unmatched Availability: Now one can never compare and argue over the availability of solar energy. This makes a great advantage as compared to other fossil fuels; solar energy doesn’t stand the prospects of being depleted. Although there is variability in the amount and timing of sunlight over the day, season and year, a properly sized and configured system can be designed to be highly reliable while providing long-term, fixed price electricity supply. For a country like India, which receives an annual average of 4-7 KWH per day for every square meter (Window2India), solar power can be a very viable and secure resource in the future.