Originally posted on Medium (www.medium.com)

The Solar Rooftop Irony: Germany versus India

How Germany stacks ahead of India despite having lower year-round solar irradiation.

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Written by Sanketh MS

March 15, 2018 • 4 min read


Sanketh is interested in environmental and energy issues, leadership and travel. You can follow his blog at: https://sankethms.wordpress.com/


I live in Heidelberg, Germany, a city that can be compared to the likes of Mysore or Chikmagalur both in terms of size and beauty. The ways of people and the general vibe of the city is also quite similar to a small tourist town in India. But there’s one conspicuous difference about the place that you will quickly identify if you are in the renewable energy business. Or simply if you’re just into green energy.

rooftop solar aerial view Germany
Bavarian rooftops collect the sun’s energy with solar panels. Germany leads the world in installed solar capacity.

Rooftop Solar Panels.

You can’t drive through a street in the city without noticing a good share of buildings with solar panels on them. Buildings ranging from commercial to government establishments to institutions. It was a pleasure to witness what I had only read about — Germany’s sustainable practices and how the country is energy sufficient due to their renewable sources.

In India, We Get More Than We Need.

I arrived in Germany last September and for the last 7 months, the obvious irony about solar in India hasn’t stopped bothering me. For someone who lives in the tropics, a sunny day is not something they would fancy. In fact, we usually crave a sky with diffused sunlight and some pleasant wind. However, in Germany, direct sunlight for more than an hour per day, during fall through spring, is something to pray for.

Back in Bangalore, when I was working with Solarify, in almost all sales appointments, I was asked, “Will solar work during the winter and monsoon season?”, and every time I wished I could sum up my answer to the customer by showing them these pictures.

solar irradiation map india
The maps depict the annual average light energy incident on a particular area in terms of kWh (units) per square meter.
solar irradiation map germany
Areas which are darker represent more amount of light energy whereas lighter areas represent lesser light energy being incident on it.

While places like Bangalore and other parts of southern India receive more than 5 units of energy per meter square per day, most of India at least gets more than 3 units of energy per meter square per day. With such rich amounts of irradiation, we have a total current installation of a little more than 1.5 gigawatts of solar rooftop energy.

Whereas, in Germany with a mere 1.2 units of energy per day, the country has added 1.53 Gigawatts of solar energy only in the year 2016.

We Can Do More.

The decisions makers in an Indian household are on an average above 40 years of age and it’s not common to find many who would put sustainability first in their day to day lives. It’s even harder to find decision makers who proactively want to install solar. Whereas German household decision makers still invest in solar even if it means marginal benefits — given such poor sunlight for over half a year — because they believe in the role of renewables for a clean future. Herein lies the irony that keeps me awake at night. (Read More: Your work environment can solve the global energy crisis)

But, There Is Hope.

Given this contrast in culture towards sustainability, it is very encouraging to see Bangaloreans getting more and more interested in knowing how they can benefit from a solar rooftop. Almost every encounter of mine with relatives at a family function turned into seminar on the net-metering policy and the ease of going solar, with them, in the end, saying, “I should look into it then, I wonder why more people don’t know about this.”, and with some of them being interested in becoming other stakeholders in the solar energy business. Many are motivated by the economics of it and some by its sustainability quotient. (Read More: Energy efficient homes are real and affordable, Investing in Solar is a smarter than a bank deposit)

Irrespective of the motivation factor, people seem to be taking notice of how solar has benefited someone they know or how it’s being adopted by many top-tier institutions.

India is so gifted with irradiation that I personally feel it’s a crime to not satisfy our perpetually growing energy needs through solar energy. Every building owner needs to realise the economic feasibility of rooftop solar by becoming aware through the right channels, proactively analyse against their consumption and have an objective conversation with themselves.

In my opinion, solar rooftop energy is the easiest way possible to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle by reducing our carbon karma, especially because our roofs in India have front row seats for the Sun.

Originally posted on our Medium profile • March 15, 2018
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