India Gets Serious About Solar

By Siena Hacker
12 June 2018
India's solar initiatives

According to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is on track to install 200 gigawatts of renewable capacity by 2020. The country is fully embracing the potential for solar to help meet this ambitious goal.

In the past two years, India has debuted its first completely solar powered airport and railway station. Even better, the country is striving to bring as much renewable energy online as possible, including a 5 GW solar power park.

India’s pursuit of solar is making it a leader in clean energy and setting a sustainable example for its neighbors.

Increasing Renewable Energy Capacity in India

India’s population is growing, and with it their demand for energy. Furthermore, there are still large segments of the population that have relied on diesel and kerosene, but will soon transition to grid-connected electricity usage.

Rather than increase traditional fossil fuel fired plants, the country is getting creative with renewable energy. India's integration of clean energy solutions has been so successful that they are already close to exceeding their 2015 goal of installing 175 GW or operational renewable energy by 2020. In fact, Prime Minister Modi has confidence that they'll reach 200 GW by March 2020. Sustainable electricity is becoming such a dominant presence in India, that Coal India, “the world’s largest coal company, admitted that it was ‘only a matter of time’ that renewables replaced fossil fuels in the country.”

Five GigaWatt Solar Park in the Works

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy recently approved the development of a five GW solar park - the largest in the country - in the state of Gujarat. The park will cover 11,000 hectares in the city of Dholera.

Each Indian state is supposed to generate at least eight percent of its electricity from renewable sources, but Gujarat lags behind in meeting this target. The project will provide a significant boost in helping the state reach 8 GW of installed solar capacity by 2021.

Furthermore, Dholera has attracted the interest of several large manufacturing companies, like Airbus. The city hopes that the new solar park will help meet the future electricity requirements brought on by new manufacturing developments in the area. Preemptively developing solar and other renewable energy capacity could prove to be a valuable long term investment for the country, as India is predicted to become the fifth largest manufacturing country in the world by 2021.

Solar-Powered Transportation: Better Fuel and Finances

In April 2017, the government commissioned a solar panel installation project for the Guwahati Railway Station. The station, which handles over 20,000 passengers daily, is located in northeastern part of the country.

Over 2300 solar modules on the roof of the station now provide enough generating capacity to meet all of its electricity needs. While the project has clear environmental benefits, it was also undertaken for financial reasons. Indian Railways, the state-run transportation system, is the country’s largest consumer of diesel and electricity.

In 2016, fuel costs amounted to about 18 percent of the company’s operation expenses - around $4.6 billion. Converting the Guwahati Railway Station to solar energy cost about $1 million, but it will save the Indian Railways about $99,900 annually in reduced fuel expenditures. The project will likely payoff in a big way because of solar panels’ long lifespans. After paying for itself in 10 years, the solar system will continue to generate for several more decades.

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The Guwahati Railway Station project is just one of the ways Indian Railways is reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. In 2017, the company unveiled coachcars equipped with solar panels to power basic indoor feature, such as information displays, lights, and fans.

India’s commitment to clean energy is quickly making it a leader in solar around the world. The country’s leadership could prove invaluable to other similarly situated countries looking to develop sustainably.

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