Energy minister Farooq Abdullah has just commissioned India’s biggest grid connected solar power plant. But does this mean much?

India is ‘Sunshine Country’, parts of it enjoying at least 250 sunny days every year. Traditionally, we have used solar power wisely and well” to make pickle, dry vegetables, fruit and grain. But India has been less diligent about using solar power to supply its energy needs.
In the next decade, India will need 10,000 MW more than its installed power capacity of 1,59648.49 MW. Are we finally ready to rely on solar power, an abundant, eco – friendly and inexhaustible resources? There are signs the Sunshine Country is thinking harder about solar power than ever before.

European, American and East Asian companies are poised to jump in once India demonstrates its seriousness abut solar energy.

Where will the Sunshine Country stand on the leaguer table of solar – powered nations? That’s hard to predict because one of the chief drawbacks of getting solar energy on tap is the capital investment required.

Generating solar power is expensive roughly Rs. 15 to 18 a unit, compared to thermal (coal) generation at Rs. 1.50 to Rs. 2 a unit.

It was only on January 11, that India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aimed to take installed grid capacity for solar energy to 20,000MW by 2022.

As the experts point out, California is a good example of substantial R&D investment ensuring solar security.

Professor Anil Gupta of IIM, Ahmedabad, and executive vice chair of the National Innovation Foundation says India “has got locked in the PV cycle, which is costly. We didn’t try greenhouse innovation on a large scale, like China where a revolution has taken place through farmer innovations. Where are the funds for solar innovations? Or the fabrication labs, polytechnics and it is with courses on solar tech? Distribute mobile labs to provide fabrication facility to grassroots innovators and watch solar innovations increasing manifold.

Till that happens, it’s hard to see solar energy becoming a sunshine industry in India