India set a goal to build 20 gigawatts of solar — an enormous amount — by 2020. The haters said at first that the country might not make it, but lately India's plan is seeming smarter than anyone imagined. Plus, it's creating jobs — both in India and in America! What's leading to its success?
- Government subsidies that are aggressive … but not too aggressive. Subsides are creating both demand and enough competition to keep prices down.
- Private sector support. Indian banks are beginning to see solar as a desirable investment, since, like toll roads, they're infrastructure projects that offer predictable profit over a large number of years.
- Renewable requirements, first for state-run utilities and now for all state-run companies. That means even coal-fired power plants might have to invest in renewables.
India has incredible solar energy resources — it's usually sunny there for more than 80 percent of the year — and it needs people to build up and maintain infrastructure, so these projects are providing jobs as well as power. Not just techy energy jobs, either; one dusty solar farm needs workers to mop its 36,000 solar panels regularly. And since Indian projects have favored Made-in-the-U.S.A. thin-film solar panels (the country's leading solar supplier is Arizona-based First Solar), growth in the subcontinent is fueling job creation here.