Solar power in India is growing with some big, ambitious policies adopted by leaders aimed at dramatically reducing use of fossil fuels and turning to the ample resource that the country enjoys.
Two years ago, India announced plans to increase generation and use of solar electricity from approximately nothing, to 20,000 megawatts (MW) – the equivalent of energy required to power 20 million U.S. homes. At the time, there were plenty of nay-sayers who claimed it could not be achieved. Already, they are re-thinking their dour predictions.
Currently, India’s solar power totals only about 140 megawatts, which can power a town of 50,000. Of that amount, 10 megawatts is generated by the utility scale solar power project operated in Khadoda, India by Azure Power. Azure sells the solar electricity generated by the 36,000 solar panel plant to a state-government electric utility. The CEO of the company, Inderpeet Wadhwa, predicts that within just a few years, solar power will reach grid parity in India. That is, it will be cost competitive with electricity generated by conventional means, including coal-fired plants.
Analysts believe that India’s 20,000 MW solar power goal could even be reached before 2020. This is due in large part to a dramatic drop in prices of solar panels. Some manufacturers have slashed costs by 30-40% in 2011 alone, bringing the cost of solar panels to a mere $1 per watt. First solar, based in Tempe Arizona, is the leading U.S. supplier of solar panels to India.