Bangalore, India: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, are mapping India’s solar hot spots—where round-the-year sunlight makes it viable for companies to set up solar power plants. This mapping project is supported by the Environment Ministry, Government of India (GOI).
Solar potential maps, depicting monthly variations over the topography of India, were obtained using the GIS for mapping.
Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, India aims to have 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power produced by 2013 and 20 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2022. The country currently generates 18,155MW, or 10.9 percent, of its electricity from renewable resources. Of this, solar energy makes up just 18MW, or 0.01 percent.
“We have mapped the states that will have sunlight throughout the year, which will guide a business firm to set up a plant,” said T.V. Ramachandra, a faculty member at CES and the project’s guide. CES will carry out district-level mapping in the next phase.
Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka have been identified as the states that receive enough sunlight throughout the year to merit large commercial solar plants.
“Coastal parts of Kerala, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are ideal states to set up small plants for domestic use, like solar cooker and solar water heater,” Ramachandra said.
The researchers used radiation data from US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s records. Surface meteorology and solar energy data sets provided monthly average radiation data for 22 years—July 1983 to June 2005.
“While solar technology is improving, it is imperative to estimate the solar energy available over the land surface. We have only 45 solar radiation stations spread across the vastness of the country to give authentic ground measurement of the radiation. This sparse network cannot provide the data for the whole country,” Ramachandra said.
India’s location in the global solar belt—which lies between the 40 degrees north and 40 degrees south latitudes— makes it ideal for harnessing solar energy, said Jain.
India potentially has a USD 1 billion (INR 4,481 crore) solar energy market, according to an estimate by the United Nations Energy Programme in its report for 2010.
A report on solar photovoltaic cells by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA), also released in 2010, said India has a cumulative power generation capacity of 152GW and faces a deficit of 11 percent in overall demand and 12 percent when demand peaks.