There’s been no shortage recently of big companies going big on solar, nor of middlemen trying to pave the way for bulk buying of solar power, but when the beast that is national procurement gets involved, the ante is upped.

Sunrise in Tamil Nadu, India. The nation is currently planning to build the world's largest solar power plant (750 MW). Image courtesy: SR Sasikumar.

Entering this mix: India. While Indian solar potential has to date been largely untapped, there are now several forces combining to increase solar power production in India:

  1. India is under pressure to do (or at least be seen to be doing) something ahead of the COP-21.
  2. Indian cities are now starting to take air pollution seriously, or at least the monitoring thereof.
  3. With 25% of the population having no access to electricity, solar power and especially the potential of rural solar electrification, it’s perhaps no wonder the government is looking to solar as a means to solve several issues (energy access, air pollution, climate change mitigation) at once.

Irradiance map of India. Source: NREL. For more detail:

With these stars aligned, the Indian government has decided that its railways as well as armed forces buy bulk solar, adding up to 1 GW for Indian Railways in the next five years, and 300 MW for its armed forces by 2019. Compare this to current capacity of solar power at just 3 GW, and you understand the level of ambition that is starting to rev up in India. In fact, Prime Minister Modi recently raised India’s solar ambitions from a 22 GW target in 2022 up to 100 GW, which would conceivably equal 25% of the country’s installed power capacity.

Will these targets translate into reality? And will the increased solar PV equal increased electricity access? Both are questions worth tracking against reality ahead of the upcoming COP21 meeting in Paris later this year.