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State in Focus: Is Gujarat the Pioneer of Solar Energy in India?

Due to the not-so-recent developments in solar energy in the State, Gujarat has seen quite a boom as it rushes towards newer avenues and achievements with regards to solar energy. But, this was not always so, as the initial rates of PPA or Power Purchase Agreement was a mere Rs. 15 per KW. As the government at that time had “better” things to worry about, the rates plummeted down through the years, coupled with an increase in the land prices, leading to a bleak premise for activity in the solar energy sector in the state.

As of 2015, the Gujarat government has come up with a renewed solar policy and wants to scale up the production as soon as possible. Gujarat has the potential to achieve more than 10,000 MW of solar generation capacity, according to the new policy. This policy includes the installation of various methods of harnessing solar power, including roof-top solar power for houses, distribution of solar-powered pumps to the farmers and standalone photovoltaic (PV) systems for domestic use. According to an official release, the state will also be investing in decentralized and off-grid solar applications to fulfill various energy requirements in the realm of domestic purposes. The government has also started initiatives which will be looking to install basic home lighting facilities using PV systems in rural areas where the electrical grid system is practically non-existent.

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 Mr. Sanjay shah, director of Abellon Clean Tech (http://www.abelloncleanenergy.com/)  point outs certain policies which he thinks the government should inculcate in its present model. Firstly, according to him, the installation of solar power should be on the basis of 100% sanctioned loan. The present policy of the state only takes into consideration about 50 percent of the total amount of electricity consumed by all appliances through solar energy, whereas the intended amount for the same should be 80 to 87%  of the installed capacity. Secondly, the open access charges for solar energy is 4 to 5 times that of normal electricity generated through fossil fuels.

Mr. Nirat Patel, CEO of Efficore (http://www.efficoreenergy.com/) adds that the government should focus on its distribution policies as these could give a considerable boost to solar sector in the state. As per official statistics, India as a nation loses 23% of its power due to transmission and distribution losses. A work on the distributive policy along with technological advancement in distribution sector will give a considerable boost to the solar energy sector as a whole.

“Solar energy production through PV (photo- voltaic panel) has an innate efficiency of only about 20%” Karan Dangayach, managing director of Shashwat Clean Tech (http://www.shashwatcleantech.com) explains. “Let’s say if someone has  1000MW  of connected load, and if he is installing a solar plant of 500 KW, then only about 100 KW of power is generated, which is 10% of the installed capacity.”

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Mr. Karan also pointed out that the Gujarat government is slowly waking up to the fact that solar energy is the need of the hour, with more and more importances being realized especially with regards to the kind of help this type of energy would be to the farmers of the state, and eventually the country. This would inherently mean that instead of reaching the farmers in rural areas through electrical grids, they should be given the chance to harness the energy of the sun, something which is inherently available to them. Owing to this fact, there have been several steps taken in order to ensure the installation of solar pumps in villages.

Prof Harinarayan, of GERMI or Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute, applauds the government for the policies that it has undertaken in order to get a head-start on the solar revolution. “The Government of Gujarat has been intelligent and has proven more capable as compared to the other states of India. We have 1000 MW of solar power being produced in the state, which is more than what all of our 3 neighboring states combined are able to produce. This is all due to the innovative policies of the state government. Gujarat undoubtedly has shown the path to the rest of the country, with regards to reaching efficiency in terms of harnessing the power of the sun.

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In order to sustain this progress, the state government needs to work on the betterment of its policies and strive towards achieving much more than it has in the recent years in terms of efficiency in solar energy. Karan says that nowadays, the production of solar energy has  become something like that of a street fight, each state competing with each other for the betterment of statistics. In order to approach this from a more sustainable standpoint, something should be done at a national level in a smart and effective way.

India has wastelands which can be used to produce up to 2 lakh MW worth of solar-generated electricity. If even 20% of this electricity is produced, that will come to 40,000 MW, which is more than what all states are producing at the moment. The entire country should be kept in consideration instead of just focusing on one state as a whole. There has to be a change at the national level if we are to see a large-scale solar revolution occurring in the near future.

 Image Sources: [1], [2], [3]

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