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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Solar:The Next Growth Opportunity for the Chip and EDA Industries

Anand Anandkumar
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Anand Anandkumar
Solar energy has been around for a long time, but not much has been invested in advancing this technology until recently. The recent green focus, awareness of global climate change, and soaring oil and electricity prices are drastically changing the situation. Solar or photovoltaic (PV) technology adoption worldwide is poised to grow appreciably in the near future. Now, investments are starting to pour into the solar industry - and that presents opportunities for the chip and EDA industries.

In India, solar power has evolved from powering satellites, hilltop microwave feeders, and villages that traditionally rely on diesel generators for electricity, for supplementing grid power to reduce electricity costs. As a result, solar energy is getting significant support from the Indian government, which has set an ambitious goal of procuring five percent renewable energy for its power grids by 2015 and to save 10,000 megawatts by 2012 through energy-saving measures. The Indian solar industry is still at a nascent stage and it is the perfect time for the government to frame and implement policies and programs that will attract domestic and foreign investments in this sector. Solar cell manufacturing is on the priority list of the state panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to frame a national policy for the manufacturing sector.

The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC), which supported the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) study on solar energy, has suggested that the solar mission be given a higher level of empowerment, along the lines of India’s space missions or nuclear power initiatives.

India’s solar cell industry produced 45MW equivalent of solar cells in the fiscal year ending March 2007, the latest year for which data is available, posting a growth of 21.6 percent over the previous fiscal year. The ISA report identifies key application segments with high market potential for solar products – rural electrification for remote villages where implementing solar power is cheaper than extending the grid, backup power for telecom base towers that currently use diesel-based backup, roof-top solar power systems for commercial buildings, and grid connected power generation.

With India’s geographical diversity and complexity rural electrification isn’t possible through conventional energy systems. Solar energy could be used to power 80,000 un-electrified villages in India. The energy demand in urban areas is also growing fast. As a result, there is tremendous potential ahead for solar cell fabs.

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