Solar power has replaced wind power and has become the largest renewable energy technology in India.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy as of January 2021, the solar capacity in India was 38.7 gigawatts. The wind energy capacity was given as 38.6 gigawatts.
Solar power, overtaking wind power as India's largest renewable energy technology, comes as no surprise – it was long expected. However, the pace at which solar energy capacity has grown has been excellent. Ten years ago solar power capacity was only 18 megawatts while wind power capacity was 13 gigawatts (13,000 megawatts). Over the past decade, solar power capacity has increased 2,150 times and wind power capacity has increased triple.
There are several reasons for this exponential growth in solar energy. In India, more states are blessed with solar energy resources than with wind energy resources. With the exception of the northeastern states and some northern states, almost every Indian state can support large solar energy projects. Wind power projects have been concentrated in six to seven states, with most of the capacity being installed in coastal states.
Another factor that has helped solar energy rise over wind power is the rapid decline in equipment costs. The price of solar modules has dropped sharply in recent years, particularly due to the strong growth in production capacity from Chinese manufacturers who supply a large part of the cells and modules used in India. While India is largely self-sufficient in the manufacture of wind turbines, the companies here have not launched the largest megawatt turbines on the European market.
This drop in costs has also resulted in a sharp drop in tariff offers submitted by developers. Two tenders earlier this year saw bids of around 2 rupees (2.84 ¢) per kilowatt hour, a new record low for solar energy in India.
The development of solar parks, which provide developers with plug-and-play capabilities for implementing projects, has been a key differentiator between the development of solar and wind power. Several states as well as the MNRE focused on the development of large solar power plants with a size of up to 4 gigawatts. No such concerted effort has been made to develop wind farms.
Eventually, successive Indian governments have focused more on the development of solar energy. A national solar energy mission was launched in 2010, while a similar wind energy mission was launched in 2015. The installation target was also much higher for solar energy. India has set itself the goal of having 100 gigawatts of solar power and only 60 gigawatts of wind power by 2022. This despite the fact that wind power already had a huge head start in terms of installed capacity over solar energy when these targets were achieved, announced in 2014.
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