Select Page

Charles F Gay is President, Applied Solar, the solar energy business focused arm of the $8 billion Applied Materials Santa headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Dr. Gay talks about the trends that could help increase adoption of solar energy technology in India. Excerpts:

Q: How much will solar energy cost?

A: It takes about 70 watts of electricity to power a rural home. With this people will be able to run lights five hours a night, TV and fans. One 70-watt solar panel, a truck battery, a controller (to regulate the charge going in and out of the battery) and sometimes an invertor is all you need. The average selling price of a solar panel is less than $2 per watt.

Q: That’s very expensive for a rural household. Also 70 watt would barely light a bulb.

Actually, there’s a whole lot you can do with it. With 70 watts solar panel you could run 3-4 energy efficient lights for 6 hours a night, a TV set for 3-4 hours a night and a fan. Even if you put a 70 watt solar panel where there is just five hours of sunlight you get 350 watt hour of energy to run the house. At $2 per watt, that’s $140 for solar panel and equal amount for the other stuff — charge controller, wiring, fuses, invertor and switches. So, for less than $300 I meet electricity needs of a typical rural home where there was no electricity at all previously.

But what about long term viability of solar power, beyond the models?

…Solar panels come with 25 year warranty that they will generate at least 80% of what they did 25 years ago when you use it in the future. That’s a significant accomplishments that solar industry has been able to do. Government policy should ensure stable, long term predictability of the market.