Solar power has replaced wind power to become the largest renewable energy technology in India.
According to data reported by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for January 2021, solar power capacity in India was 38.7 gigawatts. Wind energy capacity was reported to be 38.6 gigawatts.
Solar power overtaking wind power as India’s largest renewable energy technology is no surprise — this was expected for a long time. However, the pace at which solar power capacity has grown has been stellar. Ten years back, solar power capacity was just 18 megawatts, while wind power capacity was at 13 gigawatts (13,000 megawatts). So, during the last ten years, solar power capacity has grown 2,150 times while wind power capacity has grown three times.
There are several reasons behind this exponential growth of solar power. More states in India are blessed with solar energy resources than those endowed with wind energy resources. Except the northeastern states and a few northern states, nearly every Indian state can support large-scale solar power projects. Wind power projects have been concentrated in six to seven states, with most of the capacity installed in coastal states.
Another factor that has supported solar’s rise over wind power is the rapid decline in equipment costs. The price of solar power modules has declined sharply over the last few years, especially due to large production capacity growth from Chinese manufacturers, which supply a large majority of cells and modules used in India. While India is largely self-sufficient in wind energy equipment manufacturing, companies here have failed to launch the largest megawatt-sized turbines seen in the European market.
This decline in cost has also led to a sharp decline in tariff bids submitted by developers. Earlier this year, two tenders witnessed bids of around Rs 2 (2.84¢) per kilowatt-hour, a new record low for solar power in India.
The development of solar power parks that provide the plug-and-play ability for developers to implement projects has been a major differentiator between solar and wind power development. Several states as well as the MNRE focused on the development of large solar power parks of sizes up to 4 gigawatts. No such concerted effort was undertaken for the development of wind power parks.
Finally, successive Indian governments have focused more on solar power development. A national mission for solar power was launched in 2010 while a similar mission for wind energy was launched in 2015. The installation target was also much higher for solar power. India set a target to have 100 gigawatts of solar power and only 60 gigawatts of wind power by 2022. This is in spite of the fact that wind power already had a huge heads-up in terms of installed capacity over solar power when these targets were announced in 2014.