The Indian Heat, the Indian Sun – these are the main things about which every European or American tourist is warned about when they make a trip to our land. The abundant sunlight received from the sun, as a result of our proximity to the earth’s equator, is considered to be one of the main woes by its people – because of the hot, dry summers it causes in most parts of our country. People in the cities constantly crib about the heat – the resulting power shortages in the summer, the water shortage faced because of the drying up of major water sources. In the rural areas, farmers watch their crops die in the intense heat and their lands harden and crack in the sun’s blazing rage.
But what our people don’t realise, that this very same brightness could very well be the source of great power – the source of India’s prosperity and the reason for its tremendous growth. I am using the term “could be” here, because it isn’t a reality yet – not in all parts of the country at least. Solar power is the power obtained by harnessing the sun’s energy. Since India is a land where this is abundantly available, why don’t we see it being a reality?
The reason is the cost involved. Solar power stations, that require huge reflectors, ample open space and good maintenance, require a huge amount of investment, much more than a hydel power station or a thermal/gas based power station. The returns take a lot of time to come, and the exact amount cannot be predicted, because in case the area gets heavy monsoons, the power station may be inactive for months. Not to mention the cost required to protect the equipment to shield the reflectors from rain, yet at the same time, enable them to receive sunlight. And since the government is refusing to provide any incentives and encouragement in this direction, nobody ventures in setting up one.
Solar power in India has great potential. The Gujarat State Government is a rocking example of this – due to the various initiatives taken by the government in setting up solar power, and providing solar power lamps and cookers to the villagers at low prices, it has proved the difference the technology can make. Most people are under the misconception that people are not willing to purchase the solar cookers and lamps, because of their high costs. But since the rural areas are highly deprived of electricity anyway, these devices act as their saviours, and if the company does not charge a huge premium, they are willing to pay the price. Providing electricity sets forth huge chains of reaction everywhere. One such chain reaction could be that access to electricity means more children and illiterate adults are able to study, leading to more number of educated people in the country, leading to more awareness and more development in the areas of agriculture, health care and so on. Indian mythology worships the Sun as a god, as a provider of all. They weren’t entirely blind – were they?