Economy & Business

    Radiant Futures: India's Solar Revolution Lights the Way Forward

    Seema Agarwal
    April5/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    India embarks on a solar revolution with PM Modi's Suryodaya Yojana, aiming to install solar systems on one crore homes, reducing reliance on conventional electricity and marking a new era of energy independence.

    Representative Image

    Dehradun (The Hawk): In the sprawling tapestry of India's landscape, from the sun-kissed fields of Gujarat to the vibrant streets of Madhya Pradesh, a solar revolution is underway, ignited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visionary leadership.
    Across the nation, from the bustling metropolises to the far-flung corners of rural India, the Prime Minister's Suryodaya Yojana is illuminating the path to a sustainable future. With the ambitious goal of installing solar energy systems on one crore homes, this initiative is empowering households to harness the power of the sun, reducing reliance on conventional electricity and ushering in a new era of energy independence.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Prime Minister's Suryodaya Yojana just ahead of the announcement of Lok Sabha election dates. The objective of this scheme is to establish solar energy systems on the roofs of one crore homes in the country. The aim is to enable Indian households to generate electricity from renewable energy sources, specifically utilizing solar power. Utilizing electricity generated from sunlight can significantly reduce the daily consumption of conventional electricity in everyday life, bringing a measure of control over its usage. According to experts, this innovative initiative by the Modi government is poised to establish 40 gigawatts of solar rooftop capacity in the country, positioning India as a prominent exporter of renewable energy on the global stage.It's needless to mention that India is a tropical country, stretching from 6.7 degrees north latitude to 37.4 degrees north latitude. The Tropic of Cancer directly intersects eight states of India, ensuring abundant solar radiation throughout the year.
    Solar radiation over India indicates that most parts of the country receive solar radiation ranging from 4 to 7 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day, with approximately 250-300 sunny days annually. If we aggregate this over a year, it amounts to roughly 5 trillion kilowatt-hours of solar energy on Indian territory.
    According to data from the National Institute of Solar Energy, India possesses a solar energy capacity of around 748 gigawatts. Harnessing this energy through solar panels can meet the increasing demand for energy among the populace.
    From a geographical perspective, India is the seventh-largest country in the world, covering a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers.
    As per the Barren Land Atlas 2019 published by the Ministry of Rural Development, the total barren land in the country is approximately 557,665 square kilometers. This land could be utilized for installing solar panels, enabling the generation of significant electricity from solar energy.
    In conclusion, India's geographical location and land resources make it abundantly suitable for harnessing solar energy, which can play a crucial role in meeting the nation's growing energy needs.
    A report released by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water suggests that India has the potential to generate 637 gigawatts of solar energy from the rooftops of 25 crore households. This calculation underscores India's status as a solar-rich nation from a geographical perspective. Over the past decades, various government initiatives have substantially boosted solar energy production, increasing it nearly thirtyfold.
    India launched its National Solar Mission under its National Action Plan on Climate Change on January 11, 2010. The aim of this mission is to combat the emerging energy challenges facing the country. It endeavors to rapidly proliferate solar technologies across India. India is committed to achieving its nationally determined targets, as pledged during COP-28, aiming to procure 50 percent of its total installed electric capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030. Expanding and developing solar energy is vital in meeting this target, and the Indian government has implemented numerous schemes to intensify solar energy production. These include provisions for 100 percent automatic foreign direct investment, solar park initiatives, production-linked incentives for domestic solar cell manufacturing, and grid-connected solar photovoltaic projects, among others. Thanks to the effective implementation of these initiatives, India's total solar energy capacity has now reached up to 70 gigawatts. According to the Global Status Report 2023 released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India currently ranks fifth globally in terms of deploying solar panels.
    On January 11, 2010, the Indian government initiated the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. Its objective was to increase India's solar energy capacity to 20 gigawatts by 2022. This mission proved successful, and by 2020, the country had increased its installed solar energy capacity to 34 gigawatts. Indeed, solar photovoltaic cells play a pivotal role in the utilization of solar energy. Harnessing these cells enables the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy, facilitating its transmission to the grid.
    The initiation of the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme by the Indian government aimed at reducing the expenditure of foreign currency on the import of solar panels, thereby boosting energy production. Under this scheme, subsidies are provided to entrepreneurs engaged in manufacturing solar panels or any related equipment at the domestic level.
    Significant progress can be observed in India's solar energy sector today. A major contribution to this advancement is attributed to the government's Solar Power Bank scheme. Under this initiative, the government installs solar plants on numerous hectares of land. Several solar parks have already been constructed under this scheme, with Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan being the largest, boasting a solar energy production capacity of 2.25 gigawatts (GW).
    Similarly, the Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka has a capacity of 2.05 GW, with plans to increase it to 3 GW in the future. According to the annual review of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for 2022, during the period from January to October 2022, solar projects with a capacity of 832 megawatts (MW) were commissioned in various solar parks. Solar energy projects with a total capacity of over 10 GW have already been initiated in 17 parks.
    Apart from rooftops, solar energy can also be generated in separate fields, aiming to increase farmers' income, for which the government has introduced the PM KUSUM scheme. This scheme has boosted solar energy production in fields.
    The cumulative result of these government initiatives and policies led to the establishment of India's first solar village, Modhera in Gujarat, in 2022. In September 2023, Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh became the country's first solar city, while in 2018, Diu became India's first solar island.
    According to experts, solar energy is the most promising among all sources of naturally available energy and is considered a prime source of renewable and sustainable energy, offering an environment friendly option for electricity generation. Today, electricity is being supplied to both homes and industries at affordable rates through solar energy, leading to savings for consumers and industries alike. This availability of electricity at lower rates in industries will reduce production costs, thereby boosting exports and reducing imports.

    As per the International Energy Agency's 2021 figures, India's energy consumption has been steadily increasing since 2000, with approximately 900 million citizens being provided with electricity connections in nearly two decades. The demand for energy in India is growing by 5-6% annually. It is noteworthy that 80% of India's energy requirement is met by three primary fuels: coal, oil, and solid biomass. The increasing demand for energy and reliance on fossil fuels pose a continuous challenge to India's foreign exchange reserves.
    Solar energy is an inexhaustible and multipurpose renewable energy source. Its development and expansion face several challenges, primarily due to the need for solar panels to harness energy from the sun. In 2023, it was observed that Indian solar power developers were importing solar cells from countries like China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Import data from January to August 2022 indicated that approximately $2.5 billion worth of solar cells were imported from foreign countries, nearly three times the previous years' figures.
    Indian solar power developers argue that domestically manufactured solar cells are expensive and less efficient, necessitating imports. According to experts, the issue lies not in efficiency but in the cost of Indian-made solar cells. The use of silicon wafers for solar cells, which are made from semiconductor materials, is scarce in India.
    Solar energy production can easily be achieved at the local level, thereby reducing transmission losses. Solar energy reduces dependency on centrally generated electricity and ensures energy security, especially in rural and remote areas. The commitment to provide electricity to every household can become a reality through solar energy.
    Solar energy is a particularly special source of energy economically. Experts believe that the expansion of the solar industry in India will create new jobs, thereby boosting the economy. If solar energy utilization in India is increased, it will contribute to GDP growth, potentially propelling India towards becoming a superpower. Solar energy is a versatile energy source, applicable for electricity generation, heating, and lighting.
    To provide electricity to remote areas in India, grids need to be established, which incur significant costs. Setting up solar plants in these areas can reduce these expenses, making electricity more affordable for villages.
    In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "The future depends on what we do in the present." With visionary leadership and unwavering determination, India is poised to harness the power of the sun and illuminate the path to a greener, more prosperous tomorrow.