India Goes Solar

A parched 5,000-acre wasteland near Charanka village in northern Gujarat now boasts Asia's largest solar power park. Built by a joint venture between Missouri-based SunEdison and Indian billionaire Gautam Adani's Adani Enterprises, the electricity produced by this facility is competitive with fossil fuel pricing. Lebanese-American engineer Ahmad Chatila is CEO of SunEdison. His company invested $4 billion across India and he says that their focus is to create ultra-low cost solar panels.

SunEdison also partnered with India's Omnigrid Micropower Company with the aim of establishing 60 off-grid solar power projects across 5000 villages. Another American company, First Solar, installed 200 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in southern India.

Whose Star Shines the Brightest?

But India's ambitions are larger still under Prime Minister Narendra Modi--he is targeting 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022. By August 2016, the town of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh will be home to the world's largest solar electrical site at 750 megawatts.

Announcing plans to invest a staggering $20 billion in India's solar quest, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son declared "India can become probably the largest country for solar energy." Softbank has partnered with Taiwanese manufacturer FoxConn and Indian telecom giant Bharti Enterprises. Headquartered in New Delhi, SBG Cleantech Limited, as the partnership will be known, will be headed by long-term Bharti insider Manoj Kohli as its Executive Chairman. Raman Nanda of Softbank will be its CEO.

Why is India Attractive Now?

India's 300 days of sunshine per year is alluring to investors. Experts estimate that the country could readily produce 750,000 megawatts, yet current output is a mere 4,000 megawatts. So why are foreign investors suddenly accelerating investments into this country? It is because at least six out of India's twenty-nine states are pioneering the way to raise India's production of renewable energy from 6 to 15 percent, primarily by establishing investor-friendly solar energy policies.

For example, Maharashtra, in the west, offers companies a decade-long exemption from electricity duty. In the south, Tamil Nadu buys solar energy at a premium rate compared to its neighbors, 11 cents per unit. Karnataka provides $160,000 for the development of each solar park.

Andhra Pradesh will establish 5,000 megawatts of solar power generation within the next four years, while Maharashtra has a larger goal of installing a capacity of 14,400 megawatts within the next five years. Karnataka aims to increase its solar energy generation by at least 2,000 megawatts by 2021.

Expected to be the world's most populated nation by 2030, India needs to accelerate its renewable energy production. It seems that new solar plants in India can be built at just $1.60 per watt for current investments, much lower than the investment needs in other countries.

If India continues to expand its solar energy sector with such ambitious plans, favorable state policies, and reinforces its investor friendly track, it will definitely become a global solar power leader.