The energy produced by the Sun in the form of heat and light is known as solar energy. It is one of the most widely available renewable energy sources. It is one of the most important non-conventional energy sources since it is abundant and free. Solar energy can be obtained directly by solar radiation or indirectly through wind, biomass, hydro, and marine sources. People have been harnessing solar energy since ancient times. They used magnifying glasses to concentrate the Sun’s light into beams. They were able to ignite wood with these beams.
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What is Solar Energy?
Solar Energy is a form of renewable energy that harnesses the power of the sun to generate electricity. It is considered to be one of the most promising sources of clean energy, and its use is growing rapidly around the world. At present, photovoltaic systems are installed to convert solar energy (sunlight) into electricity. The system comprises solar cell panels. The panel comprises a number of solar cells. A typical solar cell develops a voltage of 0.5–1 V and can produce about 0.7 W of electricity when exposed to the Sun.
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Solar Energy Potential in India
India has a huge potential for solar energy. Every year, India enjoys around 3000 hours of sunshine. India’s geographical surface receives around 5,000 trillion kWh of incident energy annually, with the majority of areas receiving 4–7 kWh per square metre each day. Solar photovoltaic power may be efficiently harnessed in India, offering enormous scalability. According to the National Institute of Solar Energy, India has a solar potential of roughly 750 GW, assuming that solar PV modules will cover 3% of the country’s wasteland. Rajasthan and Gujarat have the greatest potential for solar energy.
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Solar Energy Present Status in India
According to data presented in Parliament, 61GW of solar energy had been installed as of October 2022. Additionally, India has set a lofty goal to reach 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the end of 2022, of which 100 GW was to come from solar energy, and 500 GW by the end of 2030. The largest expansion strategy for renewable energy exists right now.
India ranked third globally and second in Asia for new solar PV capacity. In terms of overall installations, it came in at number four (60.4 GW), passing Germany (59.2 GW) for the first time. Rajasthan and Gujarat, which accounted for 53% and 14%, respectively, of installations as of June 2022, were the top states for large-scale solar, followed by Maharashtra with 9%.
Between 2016 and 2019, China, the USA, and India were the top three countries in the installation of solar power facilities.
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Solar Energy Challenges
There are certain challenges of solar energy that need to be overcome
1. Greater Production Costs Per Unit
Although the price of solar energy has decreased significantly, the cost of small solar power projects is still higher than that of other sources. The building of big solar parks is being facilitated by the Union Government.
2. Basic Obstacles
Acquiring huge parcels of land is a challenge for major solar parks. High transmission and distribution losses, grid integration, and other issues are additional difficulties. Due to the intermittent nature of solar energy and the issue of load balancing, grid integration is difficult (e.g., high load during the night but non-availability of solar power at night).
3. Environmental Concerns
The construction of large solar parks has resulted in disputes with the local populace and problems with the protection of biodiversity. For example, in Rajasthan and Gujarat, some projects have been put on hold because the transmission lines encroach upon the habitat of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.
4. Slow Growth
Despite a large increase in installed solar capacity, solar energy’s contribution to the nation’s electricity output has not increased at the same rate. Rooftop solar project capacity increase has been especially poor (less than 20% of objective by October 2022).
5. Financial Restrictions
Because initial investments in solar rooftop projects are typically quite substantial, residential customers and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must consider their financial capabilities. The lack of creative financing options that offer larger quantities at cheaper interest rates and longer terms is a major problem.
6. Reliance on Imports for Solar Equipment
At the moment, India is unable to make polysilicon or solar wafers. India purchased solar cells and modules worth roughly US$ 76.62 billion from China alone during the fiscal year 2021–22. This made up 78.6% of all imports into India (2021-22).
7. Waste Management
By 2050, it is predicted that India would produce 1.8 million tonnes of solar waste. Solar cell producers are not required to recycle or dispose of garbage from this industry under India’s e-waste regulations.
8. WTO Restrictions
At the World Trade Organization, the Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) rule for India has been challenged in court (WTO). DCR requires the use of domestically produced solar cells and modules that adhere to the specifications and testing guidelines established by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
Government Initiatives to Boost Harnessing Solar Energy
- As part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission was launched in 2010.
- Rooftop Solar Scheme: By mounting solar panels on home roofs, the Rooftop Solar Scheme intends to harvest solar energy.
- The Atal Jyoti Yojana: For the installation of solar street lighting (SSL) systems in states with fewer than 50% of homes connected to the grid, the AJAY plan was introduced in September 2016. (as per Census 2011).
- Solar module producers are asked to submit bids for the construction of solar manufacturing facilities as part of the central government’s Rs. 4,500 crores (US$ 616.76 million) solar manufacturing project.
- The National Solar Mission is a significant effort by the Indian government and state governments to encourage environmentally friendly development and address the country’s problem with energy security.
- In order to make it easier for solar project developers to set up projects using a plug-and-play paradigm, the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme “Development of Solar Parks and Ultra-Mega Solar Power Projects” was launched in December 2014.
- A programme for grid-connected solar rooftops has been introduced. for 40,000 MW of rooftop solar (RTS) projects’ combined capacity to be reached by 2022
- SRISTI Scheme: To encourage rooftop solar power projects in India, the Sustainable Rooftop Implementation of Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI) scheme.
- International Solar Alliance: The ISA was created as a cooperative initiative between France and India to coordinate efforts against climate change by deploying solar energy technologies.
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Solar Energy UPSC
India has to increase its ability to produce solar energy because it cannot just rely on importing solar technology for large-scale solar deployment. To become competitive and achieve long-term sustainable growth, the full value chain ecosystem must be developed immediately.
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