Answer by Akshat Agarwal:
Consider the following:
(Since your question is about Solar Powered Cities, I'll try to answer with that perspective only instead of household use of solar panels. However, I might sway at a place or two to explain some point better.)
1. The current state of Solar Power Generation technology: Every technology that is developed goes through following 3 different stages:
The technology for Solar Power generation is currently under only development stage. It is not perfected yet. Consider the fact that the efficiency of Solar Cells is somewhere around 20-25% only, i.e., only 20-25% of solar radiation/photons that hit the cell are converted into electricity. This low efficiency of Solar Cells discourages energy generation on a large scale.
2. Cost Effectiveness: Since it is still a developing technology, the setup cost at the moment is very high. While thermal power is pushing only Rs. 4/kWh with subsidies, Solar Power in India costs Rs. 7/kWh as of 2013. You should know that this cost was Rs. 18/kWh during 2011!!!
Yes, the prices have come down steeply, but still not sufficient to afford.
3. Maintenance Cost: Solar Energy generation is a high maintenance requiring technology. It does not involve enormously big concrete structures which will suffice with once they are made, except for minor maintenance now and then. They require constant maintenance. Not going into problems that a household Solar Panel user will face, other maintenance includes:
- Cleaning of Solar Panels
- Problems faced due to change in weather
- Replacing of Broken panels
- Updating the old ones
4. Lack of Service: (in this point I'm talking about household usage) Due to limited use of Solar Panels and still developing technology, the services for problems in the Solar Panels are not readily available. Even if they are, they are quite expensive. In a country like India, not many people would be willing to afford it.
5. Solar Insolation: Since India has a Tropical & Sub-tropical climate, Solar Insolation, i.e., incident solar radiation, is not really a problem for us. Sunshine is available here in plenty and the conditions are ideal for Solar Power generation. Nonetheless, it is not available 365 days a year in every part of the country. Solar radiation is dense in western states like Gujarat & Rajasthan, but not so much in eastern and southern states, comparatively.
It is still, nonetheless, plenty. But having high Solar insolation is not enough. Consider the next point.
6. Area Constraints: The requirement of a large area to produce Solar Energy is well known. Factor into that the huge population of India. It is easy to visualize how difficult it is to setup huge Solar Plants when there in not enough space for people. Not to mention that India is an agrarian and agricultural economy. To invade on the land used for agriculture is to threaten food security of India itself.
Conclusion: In the present scenario, Solar Energy can only act as complementary to conventional energy sources, not as a substitute.
Nonetheless, India is looking forward and moving in the direction of Solar Energy as an important and promising sector. India is planning to build the world's largest Solar Plant to generate 4,000 MW, near the Sambhar lake in Rajasthan. The estimated rate at which this electricity will be available is Rs 5.50 per unit.
Not bad, eh!! 😉