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How will India achieve its steep renewable-energy goals? Solar plant that floats is one way.

It was just a normal day for Charles Fritts, an American inventor, on the rooftop of the building where he worked. Fritts’ inventions were not extraordinary where he made clockwork mechanisms and mechanical devices. But one day, using selenium and two thin metal sheets, Fritts created the first selenium-based solar cell that made the world sit up and notice. The year was 1883.

But there was one problem. Fritts, who hoped that his solar cells might compete with Thomas Edison’s coal-fired plants, could only achieve 1% efficiency, meaning only 1% of sunlight was converted into electricity.

Fast forward to today, solar power plants, by natural justice, are a necessary alternative to coal-fired plants. It has taken nearly 140 years for the efficiency of commercial solar cells to reach just over 22% since Fritts’ rooftop invention.

But this hasn’t deterred countries from making use of as much solar energy as they can. This is where floating solar plants — where solar photovoltaic panels are installed on water bodies such as lakes and ponds — come in.

Shift to renewable sources of energy is perhaps among one of the last cards that the world can play to battle climate change. To become a net-zero emissions country, India has set a steep solar-energy generation target of 300GW by 2030. The immediate target is to reach 100GW of solar power by 2022. Floating solar plants were never part of India’s plans. But the benefits of such plants are becoming clearer. To meet ambitious emission-cut targets, India must get hold of any possible opportunity. Floating solar plants is one such opportunity.


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