Mofussil towns have given a fillip to unprecedented growth of India’s solar power sector. In a few years, Patna’s solar market has earned around Rs. 500 crore, solar business in Bhopal has almost doubled since 2009 and Ballia — a small town in Uttar Pradesh and hometown of former PM Chandrashekar — has a Rs. 100-crore solar business.
“Solar power is turning into a viable alternative in rural hinterland that has no power connection and regions where regular power supply is unreliable,” said Gireesh Pradhan, secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Most of the tailor-made solar products, however, are coming from China, not Indian manufacturers.
“Affordable cost of the Chinese solar products is their selling point,” said Ram Kripal Singh, a wholesale distributor of solar goods in Delhi’s Lajpat Rai market.
“Around 70% of the solar market sells Chinese goods”.
Many in the business claimed that Chinese solar manufacturers are developing products as per the requirements of rural Indians. And, the latest in the league is solar water pump for a house for just Rs. 5,000.
The new and renewable energy ministry in a survey has found that most of the solar equipment coming from China are low in efficiency. “The Chinese solar panels provide just 7-8 % efficiency compared to the normal efficiency of 16-17%,” said a ministry official.
A Chinese solar panel takes twice as much time to charge a battery as a more efficient panel. But cheap Chinese solar goods have created new business opportunities since they are a huge hit in rural India. “The investment can be recovered in at least two years,” Singh said.
Indian solar market’s 22% growth, courtesy the Chinese goods, has perturbed the Centre which later tried to impose the anti-dumping duty on Chinese solar equipment. The US too had come up with a similar plan.