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Professor’s Ignorance on Solar Power Economics in major Newspaper

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I am amazed at the ignorance and lack of due diligence done by analysts and academics when they post articles on solar energy in major mainstream media. I am even more amazed why respected mainstream media such as LiveMint in India publish these articles without doing some due diligence themselves. In an article on solar power costs, Professor Sajal Ghosh of MDI says that there are hidden costs to solar power such as dumping by countries, land acquisition costs and network balancing costs. However, he has not quantified or done investigation on any of these issues. A 2 hour research on these topics would debunk most of his opinions on these topics. I am going to analyze his arguments one by one to show his ignorance and plain laziness while analyzing these costs.

From the article Solar Power – Truth vs Hype

Point No. 1

“Unfortunately, the reduction in the cost of solar power is not the result of a technological breakthrough in terms of enhanced conversion efficiency, but due to the dumping of cheap imported solar cells and modules by foreign cell manufacturers who enjoy massive state subsidies to practise predatory pricing and, thereby, destroy the domestic solar industry. “

The reduction in solar power costs has been due to an increase in solar cell efficiency, which has steadily been increasing by 0.5% every year. It is expected that this trend will continue till silicon solar panels reach their theoretical efficiency limits of 28%. ITRPV which is the semiconductor industry research body even has a roadmap, which explains the technological changes which will lead to this increased efficiency. However, the learned professor has not done a perfunctory google search before enlightening us with his opinion.

Dumping of solar cells and modules. Does he even know the costs of production or prices before talking about predatory pricing? The solar module costs are 40 cents/watt by leading panel players such as Trina and Jinko Solar with prices at 50 cents/watt . Where is the dumping? Dumping means selling below costs. With 20% gross margin where is the dumping?????

Point No 2.

“Further, a massive injection of solar power of the scale envisaged may perturb grid stability. Solar farms, unlike coal and nuclear power plants, cannot deliver the same amount of continuous electricity. To maintain grid frequency, grid operators must be able to predict precisely what the solar energy input at any given hour will be. But such an exact prediction every time is impossible.”

Again a totally false and misleading opinion. Germany has installed more than 30 GW of solar power capacity and gets almost 20-30% of its total electricity from solar power on sunny days. This has not got the power grid to collapse. Instead the grid operators have become better at balancing the grid. Using energy storage, demand side management techniques and balancing coal/gas power plants can allow renewable energy to reach 50% of the total electricity power. Denmark gets 40% of its electricity from wind power which is intermittent like solar. The grid is working fine in those countries. India is far from reaching the advanced renewable energy stage like those countries. Already grid is being strengthened and new regulations being brought by CERC to integrate larger amounts. The Professor is again ignorant about these facts. California has mandated that 33% of its power should come from renewable energy sources by 2020 and is already making changes to the power structure to ensure this.

Point No. 3

“Massive land requirements to erect solar panels amplify the issues further. A 1 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant should require around 2.5 acres. However, owing to the fact that large ground-mounted solar PV farms require space for other accessories, the total land required for a 1 MW of solar PV power plant would be around 4 acres. So investment in solar power must provide for a mammoth hidden cost.”

1 MW of solar power requires 4 acres of land and not 2.5 acres. The land requirements are continuously falling due to the improving efficiency of solar panels and better design. India’s total power capacity is around 280,000 MW, so even if we assume that the total capacity comes from solar power than 280,000 MW * 4 acres = 1.16 milllion acres of land will be required. India’s total land area is 812 million acres, which means that 1% of the total land area will be enough to power India. The professor is also ignoring the fact that unused rooftops in homes, offices, factories etc. can be used to produce solar power. Also note that 30% of India’s total land mass is wasteland, which can be used to produce solar power. Deserts in Rajasthan and Gujarat are already being used to produce solar power. That land has absolute no other use and it is boon to those land owners to be able to make some money, by leasing land to solar developers. The ignorance of this professor is phenomenal.

I can continue to show that his other arguments are totally false and stupid, but it is a waste of time. Media should be more careful in publishing articles from charlatans.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Radhakrishnan Mundoli

    Great. Though the remarks are scathing, I do welcome this. Many persons simply bring out articles without much research or many people who do write lack the practical experience.
    Your remarks should be a reminder for such persons that they will get pulled down


    I agree with the remarks and happy to note that present India will not accept blindly.


    Let us be wise in the formulation of our solar power projects avoiding the totally false ,stupid and pseudo consultants and help the genuine solar power plants owners to retrieve from the mistakes they made through such pseudo consultants by putting the developers and owners on the right track.09313257211

  4. pravin

    Germany has installed more than 30 GW of solar power capacity and gets almost 20-30% of its total electricity from solar power on sunny days.

    Sure, on sunny days. but what when it is raining and wet and cloudy or smoggy? or at night. solar is a toy for the rich, not a serious plan for the future at the moment.
    i agree, however that spending a lot of money on research on solar etc is much better than spending it on subsidies.
    if solar were truly cheaper, it would not need ministers and do gooders vouching for it. greedy consumers and capitalists would automatically make it succeed

  5. Sneha Shah

    Dear Pravin,

    It is surely reaching that level and in many parts of India, solar has reached grid parity with commercial and industrial tariff rates. Any new technology needs to be touted and incentivized by the government to make it more popular. Check out the parts of rural India, where solar lights, micro grids have powered so many villages and lit up the lives of many!