Home Economy Solar energy could help light up India’s villages

Solar energy could help light up India’s villages

By Joydeep Gupta

New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) With thousands of Indian villages still without electricity, renewable energy in the form of solar photovoltaic (SPV) cells could be an effective and cheap way to light up these areas, says an official of German solar energy major Conergy.

According to Jan Hartzel, corporate marketing director of Conergy, the market for SPV will grow 35 percent annually in the next five years.

India has around 80,000 villages without electricity and 25,000-odd among them have little chance of being connected to the power grid in the conventional way.

In this scenario, renewable energy could play a huge role in bridging the gap, Hartzel told IANS during a visit here.

Since it started its India subsidiary in Bangalore in February, the Conergy group – with revenues at 743 million euro ($1.08 billion) in 2006 and expected to touch 1 billion euro ($1.45 billion) this year – has provided electricity through the solar photovoltaic (SPV) route to 250 villages in the Satara region of Maharashtra.

Hartzel said the group had big plans for India in all the major fields of renewable energy generation, including through SPV, solar thermal, wind energy, bio energy and geothermal energy. But SPV was the immediate focus, he said.

“The price of generating electricity through SPV has fallen 60 percent between 1990 and 2007,” Hartzel pointed out, saying that this renewable source would be economically competitive by 2010 without any subsidy.

The efficiency of SPV cells has also gone up many times, from five percent in 1954 when the first cell was developed to 24 percent now, Hartzel said.

The cost of generating electricity through SPV had fallen from $300 per watt in 1954 to $4.5 per watt now, said Conergy India manager K.S. Raveendra Kamat.

The company expects to install SPV in a large number of villages in Chhattisgarh and Assam and in 92 offshore oil platforms on Bombay High soon, Kamat said, adding that the company had started a pilot plant in Bangalore to manufacture solar panels of up to 100 watts.

According to Kamat, the company has supplied a large number of solar panels to Nepal and was expecting orders from Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar as well. A representative had been found in Sri Lanka.

The group is also installing a biogas plant in Chandigarh and expecting to do the same in West Bengal and north Karnataka areas of Dharwad and Hubli, said Kamat.