KOLKATA, India, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists India as the world's fourth-largest energy consumer. The Indo-Asian News Service reported on Wednesday that the country's shortage of domestic energy supplies has heightened its interest in renewable energy.
India currently has 211 gigawatts of installed electricity capacity, most is generated by coal-powered plants. Coal remains India's primary source of energy and the country has the world's fifth-largest coal reserves, with BNe Delhi retaining a near-monopoly on the coal sector. Because of insufficient fuel supply, India suffers from a severe shortage of electricity generation, leading to rolling blackouts, which is having a negative impact on the country's exports. In 2011, India was the 10th-largest economy in the world, as measured by nominal gross domestic product. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration projects India and China to account for the biggest share of Asian energy demand growth through 2035. While India's primary energy consumption more than doubled between 1990 and 2011, according to the International Energy Agency, India's per-capita energy consumption remains lower than that of developed countries.
Searching for energy alternatives, West Bengali capital Kolkata may soon get India's first floating solar power station by the end of next year. The facility has been proposed by Indian solar expert S.P. Gon Chaudhuri.
"Each station would require around 3,000 square feet of space to generate 20 kilowatts of power," Gon Chaudhuri said. "There are many water bodies that could be used for this. Such floating solar stations would generate more energy as research has shown that if the panels stay cooler, they generate more energy, up by 16 percent."
India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which has underwritten the research, expects the project to be implemented by 2014. Current cumulative solar installations in India stand at 1,761 megawatts. In 2012 India installed 980 megawatts of solar power installations, with about 557 megawatts installed thus far in 2013.
The indigenous Indian solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry was growing until it initiated an anti-dumping investigation against China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the U.S. relating to the importation of solar cells. The Indian investigation was based on alleged dumping of solar modules by these countries into India, as the result of a complaint filed by Indian PV solar manufacturers, attempting to protect India's domestic PV manufacturers.
Many Indian analysts subsequently commented that, as India's solar market is still in its infancy, starting a trade war could become costly when New Delhi's prime concern should be to encourage new technologies, competition and free markets.
Further complicating trade issues, the U.S. government recently announced that it has requested the World Trade Organization to intervene regarding its dispute with the government of India concerning domestic content requirements in India's national solar program. Washington maintains in its WTO filings that India's solar programs appear to discriminate against U.S. solar equipment manufacturers by requiring developers to use Indian-manufactured solar cells and modules by offering subsidies to developers that use domestic equipment instead of imports.
Indian New and Renewable Energy Ministry Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor nevertheless remains committed to the future of solar power in India.
"Solar power has the immense capacity to bring in stability to the fluctuating electricity tariffs in India, as it is cheaper than thermal and domestic coal," Kapoor said. "States have realized that solar sector is positive as most solar radiation in the worst parts of India is better than in the best parts of Europe. Solar is a serious area to work for large scale projects in India."