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Solar News

Million Solar Roofs from California to India


Nature reports on a new initiative in India to put solar panels on one million roofs by 2020. As reported in the article, the new initiative is "among the world's most ambitious":

"The US$19 billion solar plan is the centrepiece of a detailed road map for domestic climate and energy policy to be laid out ahead of international climate negotiations this December.

"Meeting for the first time in over a year, the council on 3 August approved targets set out in a draft proposal. Under the proposed plan, solar capacity will be increased from its current 5 megawatts to 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, with solar lighting reaching 20 million households and solar panels covering a million roofs. In the longer term, capacity will be extended to 100 GW by 2030 and to 200 GW by 2050. In comparison, Japan is aiming for 28 GW of solar power by 2020, and the Chinese government anticipates at least 10 GW by 2020."

The initiative is reminiscent of the bold initiative in California to place solar panels on one million roofs in the Golden State by 2018. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the legislation to complete this million solar roof plan in 2006, and now India has matched California's vision.

One major stumbling block to expand this initiative to other states is the utility companies, which view the decentralized rooftop solar installations as a major threat to their hegemony over the energy market.  As recently reported in Newsweek, only 33,500 rooftop systems were installed last year in the entire U.S. and some utilities are fighting tooth and nail to slow the surge of interest in solar energy.  The article reports that there is a large disparity between the utility scale projects that produced just 96 megawatts in 2006-2008, and the decentralized rooftop projects that produced  522 megawatts in the same time period:

"The disparity has utilities worried about loosing [sic] their grip on the country's energy industry, and the $130 billion residential electricity market.  In some cases, utilities are actually taking direct steps to thwart rooftop solar."

If the million roof initiatives in California and India are to be expanded, consumers must rely on their elected representatives  to dampen the opposition to rooftop solar.