What do Indians do if they are given USD $4.4 billion? They build a solar power plant. And it is not an average one, no no, it is the largest one the world has seen. The project, which will be a joint venture of six large companies, is expected to be completed in a space of only 7 years. The new solar plant will have a capacity of 4,000 megawatts and it will cover an area of almost 80 square kilometers.
India is one of the countries where solar has a huge potential given the impressive number of sunny days a year. It is actually quite surprising that currently the country has the capacity of only 2,208 MW, although they do note a rapid increase in solar power production since 2010. Solar power is still much more expensive than energy produced from coal burning and natural gas, but the forecast is that the price will soon drop.
The new project is part of the initiative to cut down the country’s emissions. According to governmental officials, if the new solar plant is constructed and begins operation as planned, the annual carbon dioxide emissions from energy production could be reduced by as much as 4 million tonnes. This is quite a significant amount given that the plant is expected to operate for 25 years.
The chosen location for the ‘solar monster’, is Rajasthan, an area located in the northwest part of the country, south of New Delhi, where each year 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours of energy will be produced. The numbers are really impressive, but of course such major construction work could not go ahead without facing major criticism. According to some environmentalists, huge amount of electricity is already wasted in transmission, and such plant will only benefit big urban centers. Specialists from the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi add that smaller projects in rural areas will have much greater social benefit, especially considering that more than 50% of the small villages across the country have access to electricity.
Image (c) Reuters