Solar Energy in India – Pros, Cons and the Future

India, a rapidly growing economy with more than 1 billion people, is facing a huge energy demand. The country stands fifth in the world in the production and consumption of electricity. The electricity production has expanded over the years but we cannot deny the fact that the population of the country is also expanding. The power produced in the country is mostly from coal (53%) and it is predicted that the country's coal reserves won't last beyond 2040-50. More than 72% population living in villages and half of the villages remain without electricity. It's high time that our country should concentrate more on energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy. To meet this surging demand, solar energy is the best form of energy to fulfill the energy needs of India and bridge the energy demand-supply gap.

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Solar Energy in India

India has tremendous scope of generating solar energy. The geographical location of the country stands to its benefit for generating solar energy. The reason being India is a tropical country and it receives solar radiation almost throughout the year, which amounts to 3,000 hours of sunshine. This is equal to more than 5,000 trillion kWh. Almost all parts of India receive 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per sq meters. This is equivalent to 2,300-3,200 sunshine hours per year. States like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal have great potential for tapping solar energy due to their location. Since the majority of the population lives in rural areas, there is much scope for solar energy being promoted in these areas. The use of solar energy can reduce the use of firewood and dung cakes by rural households.

Advantages of Solar Energy in India

  • This is an inexhaustible source of energy and the best replacement for other non-renewable energies in India.

  • Solar energy is environmentally friendly. When in use, it does not release CO2 and other gases that pollute the air. Hence, it is very suitable for India, which is one of the most polluted countries in the world.

  • Solar energy can be used for a variety of purposes like heating, drying, cooking, or electricity, which is suitable for rural areas in India. It can also be used in cars, planes, large power boats, satellites, calculators, and many more such items, just apt for the urban population.

  • Solar power is inexhaustible. In an energy-deficient country like India, where power generation is costly, solar energy is the best alternate means of power generation.

  • You don't need a power or gas grid to get solar energy. A solar energy system can be installed anywhere. Solar panels can be easily placed in houses. Hence, it is quite inexpensive compared to other sources of energy.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy in India

  • We cannot generate energy during the nighttime with solar energy. Also, during the daytime, the weather may be cloudy or rainy, with little or no sun radiation. Hence, this makes solar energy panels less reliable as a solution.

  • Only those areas that receive a good amount of sunlight are suitable for producing solar energy. Solar panels also require inverters and storage batteries to convert direct electricity to alternating electricity in order to generate electricity. While installing a solar panel is quite cheap, installing other equipment becomes expensive.

  • The land space required to install a solar plant with solar panels is quite large and that land space remains occupied for many years altogether and cannot be used for other purposes.

  • Energy production is quite low compared to other forms of energy.

  • Solar panels require considerable maintenance as they are fragile and can be easily damaged. So extra expenses are incurred as additional insurance costs.

Solar Energy Power in India: Future

In the solar energy sector, many large projects have been proposed in India. Thar Desert has some of India's best solar power projects, estimated to generate 700 to 2,100 GW. On March 1st, 2014, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, inaugurated India's biggest solar power plant in Diken, Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh. Aakash Enterprises Energy, launched by the Centre, is targeting 20,000 MW of solar energy power by 2030. Gujarat's pioneering solar power policy aims at 1,000 MW of solar energy generation. In July 2019, a $20 billion solar power plan was unveiled, projecting to produce 200 GW of solar power by 2025.

About 150 MW is installed for various applications in rural areas, such as solar lanterns, street lighting systems, and solar water pumps, etc.

India is slowly gaining prominence in the generation of solar power due to the comprehensive and ambitious state and the Centre's solar policies and projects, and the National Solar Mission. In the latest 2020 budget, Finance Minister Jaitley declared that the Government has proposed an amount of 500 crore rupees to develop some mega solar power plants in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Ladakh. He also said that solar power-driven agricultural water pumping stations and 1 MW solar parks on canal banks will be developed in the country at an estimated cost of $74 million and $18.5 million, respectively. Considering all these facts, we do have a bright picture in front of us as India's potential to be a solar power-driven country in the world.