Six state-owned companies have formed a joint venture to execute what India says will be the world’s most powerful solar plant, to be located near Rajasthan — spread over 77 square kilometres of land, or larger than the island of Manhattan — according to a report in Nature. Its 4,000 megawatt capacity is comparable to four full-size nuclear reactors. The consortium says the project will be completed in seven years and cost about $4.4 billion.
The solar photovoltaic power plant will have an estimated 25-year lifespan and is expected to supply 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours per year, according to officials in India. If successful, the plant could help to reduce India’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 4 million metric tons per year.
India has been mapping its potential for solar-energy production across the entire country on the basis of satellite imagery, in collaboration with the United States. Fifty-one dedicated measurement stations also assess the availability of solar radiation.
The so-called green energy project has met with criticism from environmental groups. “We don’t think this should be the way to go ahead,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director-general of the think tank Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “Feeding 4,000 megawatts into an already leaking grid where 20% of electricity gets wasted in transmission and distribution losses and [most] ends up feeding the urban centers makes little sense,” he says, adding that less than 50% of Indians living in villages have access to electricity.
Efficient Solar Water Pumps for India’s Farmers
There may be an answer to the electrical access problem. There is a movement afoot to wean Indian farmers in rural areas from old and outmoded power lines and expensive diesel fuels by finding a way to work their water pumps via solar energy.
The Indian government wants to swap 26 million groundwater pumps for more efficient irrigation models powered by the sun. If it works, not only would Indian farmers free themselves from electrical dependency, but crop production would also rise. Moreover, it would save about $6 billion a year in power and diesel subsidies.
Companies targeting the market include BlackRock Inc.-backed SunEdison Inc.; Asia’s top irrigation-equipment maker, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.; Claro Energy Pvt., whose investors include Standard Chartered Plc Managing Director Arun Singhal; and the solar unit of the Tata Group, India’s biggest conglomerate. Claro Energy plans to raise additional funding this year as it quadruples installations to more than 1,300 pumps.
One risk in converting to solar pumps is that farmers may use excessive amounts of water because the devices have almost no operating costs. To avoid that, farmers must use water-saving drip irrigation in exchange for accepting subsidies to buy solar water pumps.
To read the full article in the journal Nature cited in this story, click here
To read the full article in Bloomberg cited in this story, click here