Unlocking India’s Solar Potential
By Harshid Sridhar, Senior Research Engineer, CSTEP.
India is blessed with abundant sunlight. Tapping even 0.1% of the incident solar energy in 2019–20 would have given us nearly 3.5 times the total energy generated from all sources in the year! Currently, India’s solar-energy generation utilises only about 0.001% of the incident solar energy. Leveraging this immense potential is crucial to power the country via clean energy.
Meanwhile, India is the 7th largest country in terms of land area and the 2nd most populous. By 2050, India is expected to surpass China as the most populous country, placing immense stress on the available land resources as we cater to rising population as well as rising developmental aspirations. Thus, there is a clear case for judicious land utilisation as we pursue our clean-energy aspirations.
Against this backdrop, CSTEP performed an analysis to estimate state-wise benchmarks (per MWp) for the land required to set up large solar plants. We compiled a list of 21 PV (photovoltaic) modules (of different technology and varying efficiencies) that are currently available in the market. We also performed detailed solar-geometry calculations — to track the movement of the Sun across the latitudinal spread of India. The goal here was to estimate the practical module spacing so as to prevent shading effects for a predetermined time slot. During the analysis, we considered the availability of suitable land for solar installations, the effect of higher-efficiency modules, and practical spacing between PV arrays to derive the area required for setting a 1 MWp solar power plant. From this, we estimated the average area required for a 1 MWp plant for each state. We found that by using higher-efficiency solar modules, we increase the solar potential for the same amount of land. Further, by using only 3% of suitable wasteland, India can achieve a much higher solar potential than in earlier estimates (additional 116 GWp).
This is visually illustrated in the poster.
Tapping into India’s full solar potential is crucial for the country’s transition to clean energy and achieving climate goals. This macro picture serves as a starting point for the next step: to identify potential sites for setting up large solar plants. CSTEP’s Solar Techno-Economic Model for Photovoltaics (CSTEM PV) caters to this need by performing pre-feasibility assessment of potential sites and support informed decision making.