Introduction

Solar energy is the most abundant & cleanest energy resource on the earth. The amount of solar energy that hits the earth’s surface in an hour is almost the same as the amount required by all human activities in a year. Solar energy can be used mainly in three ways one is direct conversion of sunlight into electricity through PV cells, the two others being concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal collectors for heating and cooling (SHC). India is endowed with abundant solar energy, which is capable of producing 5,000 trillion kilowatts of clean energy. Country is blessed with around 300 sunny days in a year and solar insolation of 4-7kWh/m2 per day. If this energy is harnessed efficiently, it can easily reduce our energy deficit scenario and that to with no carbon emission. Many States in India have already recognized and identified solar energy potential and other are lined up to meet their growing energy needs with clean and everlasting solar energy. In near future Solar energy will have a huge role to play in meeting India’s energy demand.

Solar Energy Potential in India:

India is located in the equatorial sun belt of the earth, thereby receiving abundant radiant energy from the sun. The Indian Meteorological Department maintains a nationwide network of radiation stations, which measure solar radiation, and also the daily duration of sunshine. In most parts of India, clear sunny weather is experienced 250 to 300 days a year. The annual global radiation varies from 1600 to 2200 kWh/m2, which is comparable with radiation received in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. The equivalent energy potential is about 6,000 million GWh of energy per year. Figure2 shows map of India with solar radiation levels in different parts of the country. It can be observed that although the highest annual global radiation is received in Rajasthan, northern Gujarat and parts of Ladakh region, the parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh also receive fairly large amount of radiation as compared to many parts of the world especially Japan, Europe and the US where development and deployment of solar technologies is maximum.

Importance of Solar Power:

India is a rapidly growing economy which needs energy to meet its growth objective in a sustainable manner. The increasing energy requirements have meant that the extent of imports in the energy mix is growing rapidly. Oil imports already constitute nearly 75 percent of our total oil consumption. Coal imports which were negligible a few years back likely to rise about 30% of total coal requirement by 2017. Globally there is intense competition for access to energy resources. This is a serious cause for concern as the Indian economy gets exposed to the global fuel supply market which is volatile and rising. Moreover, being among the top five Green House gas (GHG) emitters globally, India has a responsibility to achieve the growth trajectory in an environmentally sensitive and responsible manner.

Given this backdrop alternate fuels like nuclear fuel and renewable energy technologies have been gaining a prominence lately. However, there are several sensitivities related to cost and environment when it comes to nuclear technology. In fact, the recent Japanese experiences at the Fukushima nuclear reactor following a devastating earthquake and tsunami has reignited the debate around safety of nuclear energy and triggered the usual “NIMBY” (Not in My Backyard) syndrome. These developments further strengthen the case for Renewable Energy and particularly that for Solar Energy.

India is a tropical country with abundant sunshine. From time immemorial, Indians have idolized the Sun as the Visible God that provides vital energy for sustenance of life. It is time we utilize this immense potential of solar power which addresses the twin objectives of Energy Security and Carbon Mitigation for India. Moreover, being modular in nature, solar power can meet demand for wide ranging market applications where the size can vary from as low as KWp to MWp scale projects. Further, solar power can meet requirements in areas where conventional power was unable to reach economically due to infrastructure bottlenecks.

However, high costs have come in the way of solar energy reaching its true market potential. While solar power costs remain costlier when compared to other conventional sources of energy, the cost curves for solar power are declining rapidly. 

All in all, besides reducing carbon emissions, solar power can play an important role in sustaining the energy needs of the country.

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