India speeds up solar energy development

Confirmed the objective of achieving at least 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022. At least 1,100 MW of new solar power capacity will be installed in India and grid-injected by 2013.

The latter was announced by the minister of Renewable Energy Deepak Gupta, who specified that the country has started to launch projects allowing it to achieve the target of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022. Indeed, the Minister confirmed contracts have already been finalized for the installation of 184 MW, which will be put into service by 2011, 620 MW have been awarded and tenders for additional 300 MW have been announced for, to be launched within the next weeks.

One of the eight National Missions outlined in National Action Plan on Climate Change, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission specifically focuses on solar energy and its role in minimizing future emissions. The Government has launched JNNSM in January, 2010 with a target of 20,000 MW grid solar power, 2000 MW of off grid capacity including 20 million solar lighting systems and 20 million square meters solar thermal collector area by 2022. The Mission will be implemented in three phases. The first phase will be of three years (upto March, 2013), the second till March 2017 and the third phase will continue till March, 2022.

Concentrated solar energy systems, comprising automatically tracked of parabolic dishes, have been found to be useful for generating steam to cook food for hundreds and thousands of people in community kitchens especially at religious places such as Shirdi, Mount Abu, Tirupati etc. The world’s largest system is functioning at Shirdi for cooking food for 20,000 people per day. These systems have found good applications for air conditioning and laundry also and a few demonstration plants have recently been installed. A total of around 80 concentrating systems of different capacities covering 25,000 square meters of dish area are functioning in the country, largely for cooking purpose. During 2010, 15 such systems were sanctioned covering a dish area of around 3000 square meters.

Gupta said that the present objective is to reduce the price of solar energy and to stimulate research and development regarding new projects in this field. Indeed, solar energy is still too expensive in this country and this is a serious obstacle to its growth, even if local governments are required to purchase a minimum amount of renewable energy for their energy mix.

India has nearly 1.2 billion inhabitants, with a rapidly growing electricity demand: as much as 8% on annual average over the past 15 years.

The new renewable sources (excluding large-scale hydropower) currently account for 10% of the total installed power (mainly due to more than 11,000 MW of wind power and biomass), but the Government is planning on raising this share to 15% by 2020.