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India to Increase Solar Energy Five-Fold by 2022

Grant Whittington headshotWords by Grant Whittington
Energy & Environment
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the nod to increasing the country’s solar capacity five-fold, to a goal of 100 gigawatts by 2022. Currently, the country’s 4.5 GW is no small feat, considering only six nations as of late 2014 surpassed the 5 GW mark, with the U.K. the last country to do so.

India, which is the second largest country in the world with 1.25 billion people, is in good hands with environmental development. Modi, who was elected into office a little more than a year ago, has championed the value of resources and is a proven leader on tackling pressing challenges. He ran for election of the most powerful seat in India on the foundation that he would develop the country by providing solar energy to hundreds of millions of Indians who otherwise would go without electricity.

Bridge to India, a company specializing in the country’s solar market, projects that India will install around 2.7 GW this year, more than solar-driven Germany. After India produces that solar total within the next two quarters, it will firmly place the country in the top five of solar markets globally, joining China, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K.

The environmental progress doesn't come without a pinch in the pursestrings: The 100 GW target is expected to cost around 600,000 crore, an equivalence of a whopping US$100 billion. The cost factors in the expected $4 billion it will take U.S.-based SunEdison to build a solar equipment factory that will contribute 10 GW of solar energy to India over the next seven years.

With such heavy spending, the country faces threatening challenges of debt to complete the anticipated production of 80 GW by 2022. Bridge to India found that it would take nearly $40 billion worth of debt to complete the initiative. While the majority of project funding is planned to come from international lenders like the World Bank, it still raises questions about the project’s legitimacy considering the extreme cost.

However, solar energy is the energy of the future and provides countries with a safe and reusable source of electricity. India, with an alarmingly dense population, struggles to distribute its power equally, especially because of the rising costs of fossil fuel-generated power. This makes solar energy an intriguing option, especially for a country that’s constantly kissed by the sun, like India.

Previously, India had only planned to install 20 GW worth of solar energy by the same target year of 2022. Bridge to India previously estimated that India would reach 31 GW by 2019, but that would only be a fraction of the proposed 100 GW set to be installed just three years later.

The United States just eclipsed 20 GW at the end of last year. The growth of solar in the country has been somewhat exponential -- increasing from 1.2 GW in 2008, former President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to an incredible 21.3 GW today. The increase has been a direct reflection of interest from other countries as well, as China, Germany and now India have all seen enormous spikes of intended solar production within the next few years.

To exemplify just how much 1 GW of solar energy can contribute, the largest coal power plant in the U.S., Plant Bowen in Georgia, is 3.5 GW and has the capability of providing energy to 1.9 million homes in the country. The Nevada landmark Hoover Dam is a 2 GW facility and provides electricity for 350,000 homes.

Global solar installations to are expected to reach 57.4 GW this year, with India paving the way. While India’s progression is certainly an accomplishment to recognize, it may not remain on top of the solar news for long.

China set its own target of 100 GW of solar power, but two years earlier than India. Only six countries have surpassed the 5 GW mark, but it’s unlikely to remain that way for long as solar power is the newest attractive alternative to fossil fuel-generated power.

Image credit: DFID- UK Department for International Development/Flickr

Grant Whittington headshotGrant Whittington

Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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