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Reliance Industries looks at solar energy to power villages

Reliance Industries will soon foray into solar power generation through pilot projects that will supply electricity to a few villages in Maharashtra.

business Updated: Aug 21, 2007 20:59 IST

Reliance Industries, India's biggest oil firm by market value, will soon foray into solar power generation through pilot projects that will supply electricity to a few villages in Maharashtra.

"In the next 8-12 months, pilots will be launched in 38 villages in Maharashtra. These will not be connected with the grid and the solar ecosystems will provide power to these villages," RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani said here.

The energy giant, which has gas-based captive power plants in various locations, feels solar power is the answer to banishing darkness from villages, over 100,000 of which are still without electricity 60 years after independence.

Ambani said it was his belief that large-scale solar energy projects are in the offing. "In the next 20 years, solar energy will transform the world," he said.

The shift toward solar energy would drive down cost of solar cells and modules whose prohibitive cost has kept it out of the electrical power market so far.

"There will be 50 per cent reduction in cost of solar systems in the next few years... This is because technology is improving solar cell efficiencies, enabling use of thinner silicon wafers and reducing wastage in the wafering process," he said, delivering the sixth Darbari Seth memorial lecture at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Currently, solar photo-voltaic cells to generate power is considered a costly proposition in India. Although the country can produce solar cells with a total capacity of more than 50 MW, it uses less than half of this due to higher cost of generation compared to thermal and wind.