Does India Have Vast Potential For Solar Energy?

India is geographically situated in a region that receives ample sunlight throughout the year, giving it an enormous natural advantage for harnessing solar energy. With a large land area, much of which is arid, semi-arid, wasteland or receives high solar insolation, India has favourable conditions for both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations. At the same time, India’s rapidly growing population and expanding economy are resulting in surging energy demands. This confluence of factors indicates that India possesses tremendous potential for solar power generation and stands to benefit enormously from significantly expanding its solar energy capacity.

India’s High Solar Irradiation

India receives about 300 days of sunshine per year on average. The northern and western parts of the country see the most sunshine compared to other regions. This high amount of solar irradiation makes India an ideal location to harness solar power. Rajasthan, Gujarat, and parts of the Himalayan region record over 300 days of sunshine annually. Other major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata still enjoy 250-300 sunny days a year. With so many cloudless days, India has the potential to produce a significant amount of energy from the sun’s rays.

Large Land Area Suitable for Solar

India has an abundance of land that could be utilized for solar power generation. With over 3.2 million square kilometers of geographic area, India is the seventh largest country in the world by size. Much of this expansive landscape consists of flat, arid or semi-arid land in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat that receive high solar irradiation. These drier regions are well-suited for building large-scale solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar power plants, as they are uninhabited and minimize competition with agriculture or other uses. The radiation and temperatures in India’s deserts allow solar panels to operate at optimum efficiency levels.

Estimates suggest India has the potential to install solar capacity of 748 gigawatts in just the wastelands available, not even considering roof-tops. Solar developers are eager to acquire barren or infertile land for solar projects, which otherwise has little productive use. The ample amounts of vacant, sunny land across states make India uniquely positioned to ramp up solar generation and contribute to the government’s ambitious renewable energy goals if these areas can be leveraged.

Growing Energy Demands

India is home to over 1.3 billion people and is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2027. As India’s economy grows and more people rise to the middle class, energy demands are skyrocketing. India’s energy consumption has doubled since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by fossil fuels like coal and oil. But reliance on imported fossil fuels makes India vulnerable to price shocks and supply disruptions.

To power its rapid development and deliver electricity access for all, India has set a target to install 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by 2022. This is an ambitious goal requiring nearly $90 billion in investment, but will result in tremendous energy security and environmental benefits. Meeting a full 10% of India’s electricity needs from solar alone would be a major achievement. With supportive policies, falling technology costs and its vast solar resources, India seems poised to surpass its solar targets and deliver affordable, reliable and clean energy to millions.

Government Support

The Indian government has implemented several major initiatives and policies to promote and accelerate solar energy adoption across the country. The most significant of these is the National Solar Mission, launched in 2010.

The National Solar Mission aims to install 100GW of solar power capacity in India by 2022. It provides subsidies and incentives for solar project development and targeted policies to enable the growth of domestic manufacturing and R&D in the solar sector. The mission offers capital subsidies, tax incentives, and other benefits to support both grid-connected and off-grid solar projects.

Other key government policies and programs include solar renewable purchase obligations, which require distribution companies to source a portion of their power from solar. The government also provides low-interest and collateral-free loans as well as other financing support for solar projects. Duties and taxes on solar equipment have been waived or reduced to lower costs.

These supportive policies and incentives from the central government and various state governments have been critical to enabling India’s solar expansion. The government support has helped bring down costs, mobilize investment, and encourage solar adoption across sectors.

Falling Costs

The costs of solar power have fallen dramatically in the past decade, driven by economies of scale, improvements in module efficiency, and advances in manufacturing and supply chain logistics. According to IRENA, utility-scale solar PV prices fell 82% between 2010 and 2019. As a result, solar power is now cheaper than coal and gas power in many parts of the world.

In India, recent solar power auctions have seen winning bids below ₹2 (~$0.027) per kilowatt-hour. This is significantly lower than the cost of new coal power plants. With solar costs expected to continue falling in the future while fossil fuel power remains expensive, solar power is poised to become the most cost-competitive power generation source in all parts of India.

Job Creation Potential

The solar energy industry in India has immense potential to create jobs across the value chain. With large-scale investments and rapid capacity addition, experts estimate that the solar sector can create up to 1 million jobs by 2022.

The Indian government aims to install 100GW of solar capacity by 2022 under the National Solar Mission. Building out this massive capacity would require setting up solar panel manufacturing facilities, large-scale solar farms, rooftop solar installations and associated infrastructure across the country. This is expected to create major employment opportunities.

solar panels being installed on a rooftop

Around 200,000 jobs could be created in solar panel manufacturing alone as domestic production scales up to meet demand. Installing utility-scale and rooftop solar projects would generate hundreds of thousands of construction, civil engineering and electrical jobs. Once installed, these projects would require technicians for maintenance and operations, further adding to employment.

The solar sector can create low-skilled, medium-skilled and high-skilled jobs, providing livelihood opportunities for a wide spectrum of the population. With relevant training and skill development programs, India’s youth could benefit tremendously from the rise of the solar industry.

Environmental Benefits

As a growing economy, India’s energy demands have risen rapidly over the past few decades. This increased energy usage has come mainly from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, which emit high levels of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. India already faces major air pollution issues in many cities from vehicle emissions, industrial activity and coal power plants.

Shifting to solar can significantly reduce air pollution and emissions compared to fossil fuels. Solar PV systems produce no emissions during operation. The avoided emissions from displacing coal and gas plants is a major advantage of solar expansion in India. Studies have estimated the emission reduction potential from solar could be hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 per year if deployed at large scale.

In addition to emission reductions, solar PV generates no air pollutants like the sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates and heavy metals that fossil plants produce which are hazardous to human health. The public health benefits of cleaner air from increased solar energy can be significant, especially in India’s crowded urban areas. With the falling costs and increased viability of solar PV, India has a major opportunity to grow its economy in a more sustainable manner and avoid some of the detrimental health and environmental consequences seen in more developed nations.


While solar power holds great potential for India, there are some key challenges that need to be addressed:

Intermittency of solar power: The sun does not shine 24/7, so solar power generation depends on the time of day and weather conditions. This intermittency can make it difficult to integrate large amounts of solar power into the grid.

Storage costs: To address intermittency, storage solutions like batteries are needed. However, these currently have high costs. Bringing down storage costs will be important for scaling up solar.

Need for transmission infrastructure: Solar energy is most abundant in sunny desert regions, which are often far from population centers that need power. Major investments in transmission lines are required to connect solar energy supply with demand.


Summing up, India has vast potential to harness solar energy due to high solar irradiation, large areas of unused land suitable for solar installations, fast-growing energy demands, government policies to promote renewable energy, and decreasing costs of solar photovoltaic modules. Solar energy can play a major role in meeting India’s electricity needs in a sustainable manner, while also creating jobs and economic opportunities especially in rural areas. With supportive policies and rapid deployment, India can tap into its abundant solar resource to enhance energy security and access, mitigate air pollution from fossil fuels, and meet climate change commitments. Although some challenges remain, the future is bright for solar to become a pillar of India’s renewable energy growth story.

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