Solar drives that need more fuel

On a full-attendance day at a business process outsourcing centre in a village in Uttar Pradesh, 40 boys and girls work on computers, each of their desktops powered by rooftop solar panels that turn sunlight into electricity.

Their workplace, a two-storey building, is the only structure in Sonari, a village of about 1,700 people and located about 50km from Lucknow on the road to Sitapur, where electricity is guaranteed nine hours a day and six days a week — 240 units solar power each week.

Sonari’s BPO outpost, which is also used by local villagers to charge their cellphones, represents a rare example of solar energy replacing a fossil fuel — diesel — under a commercial initiative without any subsidy from the government, according to renewable energy sector analysts.

India’s efforts to expand its installed solar energy capacity have gained momentum with the capacity rising from less than 50MW in mid-2011 to nearly 980MW by June 2012. But experts caution that achieving the target of 20,000MW solar energy by 2022, announced two years ago by the Union government, will demand tweaks of policy and innovations in financing, technology management and land use… Read more

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