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Solar Energy in India!

This article has been written by Guest Contributor - Fana Hiranandani

We live in a world that has been exploited by previous generations. Living in India, we are often alerted of new extreme temperature records that have been established around the country. The changing temperatures affect us, and those around us a lot more than we realize. My best friend once had an asthma episode when I was with her in an industrial part of Mumbai due to the intense heat and pollution in the area. Seeing her in that state was very unsettling and made me reflect on the reasons for these temperature swings and pollution. Through my explorations, I discovered that the unsustainable energy sources on which we rely are a significant contributor to the urgent problem of global warming. This sparked my interest in knowing more about solar energy and its prospects.

The Solar Industry is a rapidly growing industry across the world. In the last decade, solar PV has experienced an average growth rate of 33% and is expected to have a steady growth rate in the coming years. This rate is inversely proportional to the cost of the installation which has gone down by 60% in the same time period, leading the industry to expand into new markets. The Indian solar sector has received attention from investors with increased support from the government and improved economics. India aims to meet its growing energy demand on its own and the renewable energy sector plays an important role in achieving this goal.

India is a developing economy with huge potential to grow. This means that the electricity demand is going to increase to keep up with economic activity. There is an urgent need for India to shift to solar power because India's share of global energy demand is expected to increase to 11% by the year 2040, making it necessary for India to look at options to create energy security, self-sufficiency in power generation as well as doing it all sustainability. Considering the commercial and industrial consumption of power in our nation, along with the usage in over 20 crore households in the country, the solar industry is expected to grow exponentially - fuelling economic growth, and creating employment, while doing it all in a sustainable manner.

India has an aggressive issue of air pollution. Unregulated industrial and vehicular pollution accounts for more than 41% of air pollution in the country. The use of solar power production could help diminish this pollution caused by fossil fuels. Groundwater and annual rainfall have been decreasing at alarming rates, signaling the need to diversify energy resources and reduce reliance on hydroelectricity to not strain water supplies and avoid rising concerns regarding water security. Solar technology converts sunlight into electrical energy either through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation or through photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The government has created policies, initiatives, and an atmosphere to entice international investment and quickly advance the nation in the renewable energy sector. Over the coming years, it is expected that the domestic employment situation in the renewable energy sector will improve significantly. In the last year, the government introduced some major policies impacting the RE Sector. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced in March 2021 that beginning on April 1, 2022, Basic Customs Duty would be imposed on imported solar cells and modules. This was intended to increase competitiveness among domestic modules.

The Indian government launched the Product Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme with "High-Efficiency Solar PV Modules" as one of its target industries in an effort to promote local production. PLI plan exemplifies government efforts to encourage the solar industry in India by fostering a supportive regulatory environment. As a result, several new organizations have disclosed plans to establish solar manufacturing facilities.

Just like we have policies being implemented in India, global initiatives have been taken to encourage and implement the use of solar technologies across the world. One Sun, One World, One Grid. A vision behind the thought that "the sun never sets", the sun being constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point in time. First announced at the assembly of the International Solar Alliance, India-UK's ambitious global solar grid aims to be the first International network of global interconnected solar power grids. This will combine large-scale solar power stations, wind farms, and grids with rooftop solar and community solar grids to ensure a reliable, resilient, and affordable supply of clean energy for all. These globally interconnected grids will provide new transmission lines that cross frontiers and time zones to deliver electricity derived from solar power, transmitting from a country where the sun is shining to a country where the sun has set.

The OSOWOG initiative will facilitate global access to green energy. This project is merging as an energy system not just delivering green energy, but also providing easier access to underserved populations. It will create a great positive impact on poverty alleviation and support in mitigating water, sanitation, food, and other socio-economic challenges. This project would cement India's position as a global leader in the ISA and give a boost to the Indian economy. India's effort at creating an inter-continental power infrastructure is a fairly new concept, so geopolitically this could be highly beneficial for India

This project would work with the concept of globalization and interdependence among nations which could raise several concerns for the developers. The major issues are to deal with different governments and hence, different laws and regulations. In wake of any geo-political problems that arise, the benefits of this project will be obliterated due to the reliance on several nations which is why it is a risky endeavor.

Despite the numerous benefits solar energy has to offer, there are some drawbacks. The manufacturing and disposal of the solar power infrastructure have environmental downsides. The process of fabricating the PV modules utilizes water and energy which produces greenhouse gases, along with toxic chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid. Also, it generates a lot of waste. Old and used solar panels do not have a sustainable way of being disposed of, they are usually burnt, which releases toxic chemicals into the environment or ends up in landfills due to the high recycling costs. The ability of solar to combat climate change and reduce environmental toxins may be compromised by these issues. India is expecting to be one of the top 5 photovoltaic waste creators.

India is stepping up its solar power installation, but it currently lacks a solid policy for handling waste generated by used solar panels and during the production process. India currently counts solar waste as electronic waste and does not keep separate records for it. To combat this, policymakers should introduce bans on dumping solar waste in landfills, formulate a dedicated PV module waste regulation and introduce incentives to firms in the industry to encourage recycling and mineral recovery. Industries should improvise on the PV module designs to minimize waste at the disposal stage and develop recycling techniques.

Renewable energy is a solution that has the potential to intricately provide a balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth. I believe that using solar energy has several advantages over other conventional sources, like the fossil fuels we have been using up until now. Governments have been taking the initiative to raise awareness and use technology to provide an accessible, affordable, and eco-friendly energy source to all, despite the fact that implementing it on a large scale is a challenging process. Given the numerous benefits, it offers, the solar sector is expected to expand significantly in India over the next decade. Solar energy is the solution to a greener world without compromising on economic growth provided the challenges are addressed quickly and effectively.

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