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India is producing power from solar cells more cheaply than by burning diesel for the first time, spurring billionaire Sunil Mittal and Coca-Cola Co. (KO)’s mango supplier to jettison the fuel in favor of photovoltaic panels.
The cost of solar energy in India declined by 28 percent since December 2010, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The cause was a 51 percent drop in panel prices last year as the world’s 10 largest manufacturers, led by China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP), doubled output capacity.
“Solar is going mainstream in India, helped by Chinese pricing,” said Ardeshir Contractor, founder of developer Kiran Energy Solar Power Pvt. Kiran, whose investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, an early financier of Skype Technologies SA, won one of the largest projects auctioned by India last month.
India joins pockets of Italy, Spain and Hawaii where rising fuel costs and lower panel prices make solar pay for itself without state subsidies, New Energy Finance data show. Factories and homes in the Asian nation switch on emergency diesel-fired generators during chronic blackouts and to bridge gaps in the power-delivery grid as the government prepares a $400 billion program through 2017 to curb the shortfall and spur growth.
“If they had the foresight, these factories would be replacing their diesel generators now or at least getting what they can from solar,” said Lalit Jain, chief executive officer of Moser Baer Clean Energy Ltd., which owns 100 megawatts of operating solar plants in India, Italy, the U.K. and Germany.