Going solar in India …

When talk focuses on emeraging states and Global Warming, most everyone points to China. India should not be far behind in our concerns.

Beijing’s eerily mild winter has provoked anxious media coverage in the Chinese capital. In India, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers that feed the country’s great river systems is alarming policymakers. The world’s two fastest-growing large economies are growing increasingly conscious of the global warming in which their rapid development is playing a part.

India is feeling the pain in multiple ways.

Both China and India suffer from acute air and water pollution. In 83 Indian cities for which air quality monitoring data are available, more than 84 per cent of the population was in 2004 forced to inhale poor, bad or dangerous air. Only 3 per cent had access to air that was rated good.

The challenge for India: how to continue rapid growth while reducing pollution (both in terms of local effects and global warming)? Well, with all its coal, like China, that provides one inconvenient answer.

And, the Indians are willing to grow differently … sort of …

We are prepared to assume our share of the responsibilities and obligations, provided the world recognises we have a right to grow and that means that we will consume large quantities of energy and, second, that we need to be given access to clean technology, including civilian nuclear energy,” he says. “If these two points are recognised, I have no doubt that India and other developing countries will come forward to assume their share of the responsibilities. But we are not the largest polluter: our carbon emissions are still very small.”

But, India is looking toward another path. Thanks to EcoWorld for the tip to India company MoserBaer‘s leap forward into photovoltaiics. In a technological deal with Applied Materials, Moser Baer will be building the world’s largest Thin Film solar lab.

From their press release:

Thin film solar modules are ideal for energy farms, rural applications and Building Integrated Photovoltaic markets. Photovoltaic modules based on large area Thin Film technology bring cost parity between solar generation and grid power. According to market estimates, the Thin Film based solar modules will see large emerging applications and a robust demand that is expected to grow ten fold; from 250 MW currently to 2GW with a market size of $5 bn by 2010.

Look at that projected market growth … eight fold in a three year period! This is computing chip growth rates. No wonder Silicon Valley is shifting from computer chip to solar cell …

Speaking of getting off coal, Union Minister for Science & technology Mr. Kapil Sibal said

“Providing affordable renewable sources of energy is paramount in this century. In a high energy demand country like India with abundant sunlight, affordable photovoltaic generation will be key to sustaining our growth.”

How can we disagree with Ecoworld’s conclusion:

You can say that again. For India to attain a per capita standard of living equivalent to that of the fully industrialized nations of Europe, even with twice the energy intensity of the Europeans today (”energy intensity” refers to units of energy per unit of GNP, and ongoing improvements in energy efficiency ought to allow India to achieve this goal of 2x what Europeans have achieved to-date), India will need to quadruple their energy production.

Quadrupling India’s energy production will only occur with technologies such as thin film photovoltaics, which require minimal raw material input, and where the primary variable cost to manufacture is only one thing – you guessed it – electricity, which they will themselves produce.

We’ve been hearing about ‘cheap solar’ for decades. Decades… But the prices have dropped extraodinarily over the past decade. While it might not be thin film that breaks through, solar as cheap energy for feeding into the grid looks like it might not be just around the corner, but turning it.

2 responses to “Going solar in India …

  1. Steve Caratzas

    Great story, truly eye-opening.

    The world’s two fastest-growing large economies are growing increasingly conscious of the global warming in which their rapid development is playing a part.

    Accent on: fastest-growing large economies.

  2. Steve — and both seem increasingly aware of how environmental damage is actually constraining those growth rates rather than helping. Wonder just how much stronger those economies would (will) be if they were developing green on their path toward generating Green?

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