India to plot solar energy hot spots

Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:34 AM
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NEW DELHI, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- India is planning a "solar atlas," based on the intensity of the sun's radiation, to pinpoint ideal sites for the development of solar power projects.

With data from the atlas, solar project developers will be able to predict a proposed plant's output with reasonable accuracy and determine which solar technology is more suited to the project, India's government-run Center for Wind Energy Technology said in a report in The Economic Times.

Last month CWET completed ground-based measuring of radiation in 51 locations in India, a major phase of the project, and is now developing an algorithm to validate the data.

While the country averages 300 days of sunshine annually, solar project developers typically have relied on NASA and its satellite images to identify the best locations.

"A solar atlas will be very useful," said James V Abraham, managing director and chief executive officer of India's Sunborne Energy Technologies.

Accurate data are crucial for solar projects, Abraham said, noting that even a 10 percent gap between the actual radiation and what data show can result in nearly a 20 percent drop in energy output.

Indian companies such as Mahindra Solar, which had used NASA data for planning solar projects, welcome the solar atlas as a useful business tool.

"To have info mapped in India with local conditions will help us further optimize prediction. The entire ecosystem, with solar atlas mapping, will see companies like ours getting aggressive in (the) future," Mahindra Chief Executive Officer Vish Palekar told The Economic Times.

Separately, the International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, announced Monday that it will provide $5 million debt financing to Mahindra for a 5-megawatt solar photovoltaic power project in Rajasthan expected to generate enough electricity to serve about 60,000 rural homes.

India's National Solar Mission, launched in January 2010, aims for a solar power generation capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2022. By the end of 2011 India had acquired 190 megawatts of solar, up from less than 12 megawatts in 2009.

In a related development, the Indian government announced it is establishing a solar company with initial capital of $405.6 million to build federal solar projects.

"A dedicated company will ensure that we meet our targets effectively," Renewable Secretary Gireesh B. Pradhan was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

Pradhan said Indian officials are planning visits to the United States and Europe in May to attract investment in India's renewables sector, particularly for solar energy.

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