The one reason why factories and offices are lit up bright at night for employees is to make them fresh so that they can work effectively. The importance of light in enhancing the value of our existence can never be overlooked, and this makes one think of the metaphorical comparison between moths and humans, except for the fact that humans don’t fly in only to be burnt. This importance has led humans to invent fire to eat differently, also claiming darkness, resulting to longer engagement with our surroundings.
Light is another form of energy, and it has allowed humans to accomplish great things. At a time when machines and life have become entwined, without power or electricity our existence is a crippled one. Imagine an unlit city.
While metros have advanced on this front, rural India lags behind. What is dreadful is the fact that we are witnessing this where India’s two-thirds of population resides. Private enterprises find it unprofitable to enter with grid supply unlike they have done in Mumbai or in New Delhi, and when there is the costly grid supply then there is shortage of power. The option of deploying nuclear energy is also controversial and no government has been bold about it. Over a cup of tea, a former colleague joke: “Why do people say that the entire country isn’t computerised? Personal computers were distributed long time back. But they haven’t been turned on because there is no electricity.”
Due to this villagers resort to kerosene lamps or candles, and when children read with such lights their eyesight can easily be affected. Beside these are the unlit community places and streets.
The need of the hour is to explore alternative sources of energy. And one among them is solar. Solar energy harvested through panels and stored up has been around for long. But its wider application hasn’t been considered seriously until recently in the country.
One magnificent development is Gujarat Solar Park. It makes the state as Asia’s largest solar park hub. Certificates of completion were issued in 2012 for a total of 605 MW, which included some sections that were already operational, and 856.81 MW had been completed by March, 2013. The park is expected to save around 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere and save around 900,000 tonnes of natural gas per year.
Power-hungry India has been initiating new solar energy projects to fuel its growing economy. Since 2010, India has hiked installed solar power capacity from a meagre 17.8 megawatts to more than 2,000MW. It is a part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s aim to make ‘the sun occupy centre-stage.’ The government has set a target of generating 20,000MW of grid-connected solar power and 2,000MW of off-grid generation, such as roof panels, by 2022. That would still represent just one-eighth of India’s total installed power base.
The next stage of expansion will see India build the world’s largest solar plant to generate 4,000MW on the shores of a saltwater lake in Rajasthan, which should drive solar power costs even lower. The sprawling project makes it comparable with very huge coal-fired power projects. Charanka, in Gujarat, is currently Asia’s biggest solar plant, producing 221MW. Other projects are under way in a string of states from Andhra Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu.
Greater economies of scale, better technology and progressively cheaper panels and modules that turn sunshine into electricity have brought down prices.
However, India is also still behind many nations in harvesting solar power. Germany has 35,200MW of installed solar capacity, according to the regulatory German Federal Network Agency.
What makes the solar energy experts hopeful about India’s prospects is that it is geographically ideal to harness the sun’s power because of its abundant sunshine. India boasts more than 300 sunny days a year in some parts along with large tracts of desert while a big chunk of the nation lies near the equator.
Also, solar parks have proved easier to construct than nuclear plants. For instance, Charanka took only 16 months to build. With 40 percent of rural Indian households without power, there is a huge untapped market. In villages people find it convenient to rely on solar lamps, some of them come with facility to charge mobile phones.
The country also urgently needs to generate home-grown power with imports of oil, gas and coal contributing to a trade deficit that has alarmed international investors. With more efforts and investment, it can be expected that solar power will certainly play a bigger role in lighting up the villages of the country in the years ahead.