India sets 10 GW solar target by 2017


India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a solar target of 10 GW by 2017.

Addressing the Solar Power Developers Meet in New Delhi on Wednesday, the Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah said that phase one of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission has been very successful: the initiative has resulted in 1,685 MW of generated solar power, more than the initial target of 1,100 MW.

Abdullah said large tracks of land had been identified in the regions of Rajasthan, Kargil and Ladakh, which have immense solar potential. The main challenge, the minister added, was starting a transmission line in the areas of Kargil and Ladakh so that power could be distributed to the other parts of the country.

Despite the ambitious plans, India's solar rollout has come at a slow pace.

India has recently introduced initiatives to ensure greater use of solar power in government buildings. Abdullah said the ministry also planned to use mobile towers to generate power through solar and wind energy.

Ratan P.Watal, New and Renewable Energy Ministry secretary, highlighted the importance of solar development to meet the demand of around 40% of the population, which lacked access to energy resources.

Even providing one unit of power to such homes throughout the year would require 15 GW of solar power.

The Indian government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010 with the ambitious goal of deploying 20 GW of grid connected solar power by 2022. The initiative has targeted a capacity of grid connected solar power generation of 1 GW within three years of its launch and to reach an installed power capacity of 10 GW by 2017.

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The 20 GW target for 2022, if successful, could lead to conditions of grid-competitive solar power in the country, according to the government.

Meanwhile, as part of the second phase of solar project development in the state of Gujarat, the state government is planning to generate 60 MW of solar power from residential rooftops by bringing in 30,000 homes under the project within the next three years, according to a report this week in the Indian Express.

In addition to the residential rooftops, the second phase includes about 20 MW of capacity from solar arrays that will be laid on the Narmada irrigation canal; solar-powered high-speed pumps will also be provided to farmers for irrigation in Gujarat.

"We will be covering 10,000 houses under the solar rooftop project every year for the next three years," D J Pandian, principal secretary for energy and petrochemicals for the state Gujarat, said while addressing a day-long conference on "The Future of Solar Energy in India," jointly organized on Monday by the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) and the Center for Science and Environment (CSE).

Citing Pandian, the Indian Express also reported that cities in the state, Rajkot, Mehsana, Bhavnagar, Vadodara and Surat, were awaiting approval from the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission for tenders totaling 25 MW of rooftop solar.

Gujarat's capital city of Gandhinagar is currently the only city generating solar power from rooftops with its 5 MW.

Gujarat, which has already commissioned a 1 MW canal-top solar project, is now planning to add 20 MW of additional canal-top solar capacity by developing a project on the Narmada branch canal network in Vadodara that will be set up through a competitive bidding process.

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