How India Jump-Started Its Solar Economy

India has 30 times more solar power today than two years ago. How'd the country do it?

This month, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat announced that the world’s largest solar plant had started producing electricity. The plant’s solar panels fill thousands upon thousands of acres and, in theory, can produce about half as much power as a nuclear plant. Opening a solar plant of that size would be an impressive feat anywhere in the world, but it’s especially noteworthy considering that two years ago, India's total solar power capacity was next to nothing.

The potential for solar power in India is astronomical. Much of the country averages 300 days of sunlight each year: If much-wetter Germany can go solar, India certainly can. In 2010, India’s national government launched a project to rapidly ramp up the country’s solar power capacity, and it's worked: As of March, the country has 30 times more solar power than it did at the beginning of the program—enough to power a small city.

Enthusiasm for solar in states like Gujarat has helped pump up India’s infrastructure. But while large projects are grab headlines, the federal program has focused primarily on smaller-scale efforts.

In Phase 1 of its National Solar Mission, the Indian government held a “reverse auction” for solar projects, which offered agreements to purchase power at rates that would ensure building a solar power plant would be profitable. The lowest bids won the contracts. In the first round, the country fielded bids from 500 companies for just 63 projects. During the second round, the bids were so low that they put the cost of producing electricity with solar panels close to that of fossil fuels.

But these early successes don’t guarantee that India will fulfill its solar potential. In a new report [PDF], the Natural Resources Defense Council concludes “it is unclear whether [India] is on course” to meets its 2022 goals. The first round of bids might have been too low to do the work the companies promised, and there’s some worry that projects already bid out won’t be completed,. And NRDC says every task the Indian government has set out for itself—“commissioning projects, increasing their bankability, developing a manufacturing base, and creating an enabling environment”—needs improvement.

But if India can get it right, the country will provide a model for how other countries can create successful renewable power systems. The lessons? Start small, gin up competition, create strict oversight, and support local leaders with big dreams.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Hector Garcia

via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less