It’s one thing for a small percentage of wealthy homes in California and New Jersey to get solar panels. It will be another thing entirely for India, with its 1.19 billion population, to make a substantial commitment to solar power.

Large solar players such as First Solar and Suntech Power have both recently emphasized increasing sales in India. Part of the reason for the potential growth in India is that the country published a policy called National Solar Mission in January 2010 that calls for adding 20 GW of grid-tied solar energy generation capacity and 2 GW of off-grid projects by 2022. In addition, the Indian state of Gujarat also has its own solar incentive program.

Lack of access to electricity for a large population of the poor in the country – as well as its growing greenhouse gas emissions – has made India an attractive target for solar companies. About 404 million people in India lack access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

Nearly 69 percent of the country’s electricity production came from coal-fired power plants, according to the most recent, 2008 data posted by the IEA website. At 20 gigawatt-hours, solar electricity hardly makes a dent in the overall electricity generation of 830,126 gigawatt-hours. Investor Vinod Khosla has long said that clean tech solutions needs to meet the “Chindia” test, and be able to make a dent in energy markets of India and China.

The country’s renewable energy secretary on Thursday told reporters that the country plans to add 17 GW of renewable power generation capacity between 2012 and 2017, and that will need as much as 1.5 trillion rupees ($33.5 billion USD) to achieve. Most of that investment will have to come from the private sector though.

source: reuters