SOLAR ENERGY The Way Forward

“All energy is ultimately derived from the Sun and harvesting it directly through solar power seems to be the best way to transition to renewable energy.”                          
—Peter Rive 

Energy is required at every stage of development and availability of energy resources determines the growth rate of the economy of a country. At the current rate of usage, conventional sources of energy i.e. coal and petroleum, will last only for a few more decades. Thus, it is really important that we look for some alternatives.

This is where solar energy has emerged as an excellent alternative. Solar energy is the energy emitted by the Sun in the form of sunlight. It can be used in two ways—thermal and photovoltaic form. The former comprises the use of solar energy in heating, drying, cooking etc. whereas the latter converts solar energy into electrical energy by  means of solar cells and solar panels.

Solar energy is cost-effective, renewable and requires little maintenance. It is an environment friendly fuel. In rural areas where power supply is erratic, solar energy has made a breakthrough. People’s lifestyles have improved and they are able to do work more efficiently. Solar cookers, solar powered-LED street lighting system, irrigation pumps, lights and lamps—are being increasingly used. It is gaining popularity due to its versatility and benefits for the people and environment. Rooftop solar power generation has been the fastest growing segment of India’s renewable energy market.

Solar power is also increasingly gaining momentum for industrial use. Indian Railways launched the first DEMU train with solar powered coaches in July 2017. The entire electrical needs of the coaches—light, fans etc. are met through energy generated by solar panels.

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has been promoting the use of solar energy. His efforts have led to the formation of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This initiative was first proposed by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in a speech in November 2015 at Wembley Stadium in London, UK, in which he referred to sunshine countries as Suryaputra (“Sons of the Sun”). The initiative was launched by Mr. Modi at the India-Africa Summit, and a meeting of member countries ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.

The Government of India has set a target of producing 100GW solar power by 2022. We have reached 20GW in February 2018 itself, much before the target of 2020. India expanded its solar generation capacity eight times from 2650MW on May 26, 2014 to over 20GW as on January 31, 2018.

Many Ultra Mega Solar Parks—of capacity greater than 500MW—are being set up, especially on barren & wastelands in states like Rajasthan thereby helping in economising scarce resources. The 1000MW Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park in Andhra Pradesh is the largest single location operational solar park in the world. Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat and Rajasthan are the other leading solar power producing states in India. A major factor in increased adoption of solar power is the great reduction in costs. In 2017, India’s solar power tariff dropped to a record low of Rs. 2.62 per kWh in an auction bid in Rajasthan. This is lower than the Rs. 3-4 per kWh for fossil fuel-based energy resources. This is really significant for India—the world’s 3rd largest carbon polluter, with emissions forecast to at least double as further development takes place and to meet India’s Paris Climate Agreement target of reducing emissions by 30-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Thus, for meeting the energy needs of the 21st century and future generations, solar energy is indeed the way forward.

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