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Solar India

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India has been front and centre in solar energy news lately. What has captured everyone’s imagination is its intention to build the world’s largest photovoltaic array, a 750 MW plant in Madhya Pradesh to be completed in 2016.

Just as significant is India’s stated goal of installing 170 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, a short seven years away. Like China, India is aggressively moving towards renewable energy and away from polluting coal. Thirteen of the world’s cities with the worst air pollution are in India, with the capital, New Delhi, as the absolute worst.

The environmental and climate implications of this initiative are huge welcome news, clearly, but less obvious may be the implications for business. The State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank, has recently pledged a record $12.5 billion for renewable energy funding – a very welcome news as availability of land and capital have been identified as an issue for the development of solar energy.

Conversely, this is bad news for the business-as-usual coal industry; the push for renewables is further eroding the industry’s confidence in future investments. India’s domestic coal industry is riddled with corruption and inefficiencies, but the country has also pledged to cancel imports of coal (mostly from Australia) in the coming years (see here and here).

A solar array over a canal

A solar array over a canal

This large scale initiative is also supported by the US and by Germany, among others. India is also the first country to build solar arrays atop irrigation canals; this saves land, shades the canals and reduces evaporation, and the cooler humid conditions increase the efficiency of the panels (overly hot panels do not produce as much power as cooler ones). India has also built the world’s largest freshwater floating array (a 50 MW plant in Kerala); and Darnai, in Bihar state, became the first village entirely powered by solar energy.

Across the border, Bangladesh is also making strides, announcing its intention of becoming the world’s “first solar nation”. Already, fifteen million households are powered by solar electricty in the country. Pakistan, by contrast, is struggling, especially as chronic drought is reducing its hydro-power. Nonetheless, the country has a program to power irrigation pumps and reverse-osmosis desalination plants using solar cells. A 100 MW solar plant in Punjab has also been announced, which should be welcome news and hopefully enable Pakistan to eventually build a solar energy program at a scale similar to its Eastern neighbours.

Solar energy is reliable, stable, and cheap to run; in tropical countries, it contributes to job development, stability, and wealth creation.  So these are very welcome news for the three countries.

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Written by enviropaul

February 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

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