Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.
The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.
India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:
The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.
Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:
As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]
If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.
Here are more reactions on Twitter:
$1.6 billion of investment in 5 years as the first 200,000 pumps go solar to save India’s Archaic Grid http://t.co/qa3b5fH28P
— Divyam Nagpal (@DivyamNagpal) February 8, 2014
India to build world's largest solar plant – 4,000 MW, 77 sq km area http://t.co/91LsPxZjIG Great…but when?? We are great at announcing!
— Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape) February 5, 2014
Solar energy production cost in India has reduced to half in recent years. It has shrunk to 7.50 rupees per kWh. #1 #solar
— Abdul Azeez (@abdulazeezsk) February 8, 2014
However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:
Millions of tons of lead are dumped into rivers and farmland around solar panel factories in China and India,
— Earth Debt (@DebtSlave7bn) February 8, 2014
Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.