The Rise of Solar Power in India

Siddharth Gupta
December 2, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: A Solar Panel in Tamil Nadu. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

India, even though it is one of the largest economies in the world and has one of the highest growth rates, has the largest number of citizens living without electricity, over 300 million people. Most of these people live in remote areas off the grid typically in villages. [1] Prime Minister Modi has made it a priority to electrify all of India by 2022. India's current electricity generation is 1400 terawatt-hours. [2] The goal is 57% of total electricity generation to come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The government has also planned that by 2030 only electric cars will be sold. [3] This is a large feat, but the growing usage of solar panels is helping to achieve these goals.

Solar Panel Usage

In 2016, solar accounted for just .3% of India's current electricity consumption. [2] However, in the year prior, the government announced the plans to build 175GW of renewable energy by 2022 of which 100GW would be solar power. [4] Clearly the government has a long ways to go before meeting that goal, however, solar panels have shown promise in powering off the grid villages. Fig. 1 shows a solar panel help power the water pumps and lights of a small village farm in Tamil Nadu. One of the first and largest solar panel providers in the country, Selco India, has already installed more than 300,000 systems in homes and over 10,000 systems in schools and hospitals. [3]

Future Growth

Fig. 2: Brad Mattson of Husk Power Systems Inspects a Panel (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Recent economic trends are making solar panels much more cost effective and popular. The most recent bids for solar power came at 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour, a little under 4 cents. That makes solar power less expensive then coal which sells for 3 rupees per kilowatt-hour. The price of power storage has also fallen significantly from $1000 per kilowatt-hour more than five years ago to now about $273 and dropping. [1] The government currently has open bids for solar farms totaling 17 gigawatts in the next 6 months. Looking ahead, studies estimate that 900 gigawatts of power could come from renewable sources with up to 750 of those gigawatts coming from solar power. Investors have noticed the potential growth in the sector and have started companies to provide solar panels/power. [5] Fig. 2 shows Brad Mattson, chairman of Husk Power Systems, installing solar panels in a remote village. Husk Power Systems is a startup based in Bihar, India that uses crop waste and solar panels in off-the-grid villages to generate electricity. The company is one of dozens that have started in the last decade to help electrify India. Others include Mera Gao Power, Swayam Shikshan Prayog, and Frontier Markets. [3]


The outlook for solar electricity is very strong in India. The Indian government recently lowered its annual production target for coal from 660 million tons to 600 million tons. [5] The shift to renewable energy is happening very quickly and it looks like India is on its way to achieving is 57% renewable energy goal.

© Siddharth Gupta. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] G Anand, "India, Once a Coal Goliath, is Fast Turning Green," New York Times, 2 Jun 17.

[2] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017," Britishi Petroleum, June 2017.

[3] S. D. D'Cunha, "Solar Energy Entrepreneurs In India Are Finding Faster, Cleaner and Economical Route to Power," Forbes, 17 Jan 17.

[4] V. Jadhav, "Renewable Energy in India," Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2016.

[5] M Bearak, "Electrifying India, with the Sun and Small Loans," New York Times, 2 Jan 16.