To develop solar energy as an effective alternative source of power, the government of India, on 11 January 2010, launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), under the brand name “Solar India”. The main target of the Mission is to deploy 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022. Besides, JNNSM is also working on reducing the cost of solar power generation through aggressive R&D, development of critical raw materials indigenously, and formulation of large scale deployment goals.
JNNSM is a major initiative to promote ecologically sustainable growth and, at the same time, address the energy security challenges faced by India.
The infrastructure and technology cost to develop solar energy parks is very high at the moment, as compared to the power sources such as coal, and even oil. For solar energy to become one of the prime sources, it is important that rapid scale-up of capacity and technologies is achieved so that the cost can be driven-down towards parity with current sources of power. It is hoped that JNNSM will achieve parity with coal-based thermal plants by 2030.
The Mission is also encouraging use of number of off-grid solar applications, especially in the rural areas, which are already cost-effective.
Fortunately, India has a vast solar energy potential. Approximately 5,000 trillion kWh per year energy can be produced using solar power. However, the constraint is on availability of space to put the solar panels and development of effective storage. Besides, the monsoon period has its own disadvantage vis-a-vis solar power due to extended cloud cover in the monsoon months. To develop solar power resource the Indian scientists and engineers will need to (i) develop solar panels that can create more energy per sq meter, (ii) batteries that have higher capacity to store energy while occupying lesser space, and (iii) photo-voltaic cells that can produce energy even during the cloud cover. Theoretically, a small fraction of the total incident solar energy (if captured effectively) can meet the entire country’s power requirements.
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