All you need to know about Shakti Sthala – the world’s biggest solar park

By Elton Gomes

India launched the world’s largest solar park in Karnataka, in March. The move has garnered global approval, with many lauding India’s decision to spend big on solar power and clean fuel.

On March 2, the Karnataka government inaugurated the first phase of the Shakti Sthala solar park in the drought-prone area of Pavagada, in the Tumkur district. The first phase of the Rs 16,500 crore park is estimated to generate 600 megawatts (MW) of electricity, whereas the remaining 1,400 MW is estimated to be commissioned by the end of 2018.

The Shakti Sthala solar project is deemed as the world’s largest, and is spread over 13,000 acres, across five villages. The project is part of the “Karnataka Solar Policy 2014-2021” initiative, and aims to emphasise the use of cleaner fuels, thereby decreasing the nation’s dependence on traditional power sources.

The development is significant to India, as it looks to revamp its machinery and focus on using cleaner and more efficient technology.

Here’s what happened

A report in the Los Angeles Times mentions that India’s efforts are “helping to drive a global revolution in renewable energy and reduce its dependence on coal and other carbon-spewing fossil fuels blamed for warming the planet.” The report lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on promoting solar energy, which stands in direct contrast to US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accord.

The Los Angeles Times reported that India overtook Japan in 2017, and became the world’s third biggest market for solar power, behind China and the US.

Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said, “The U.S. and India have sort of swapped places, and Modi is now becoming a global statesman for renewable energy and solar,” as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

After witnessing a dull 2017 in the solar power sector, India seems to be forging ahead in 2018. In the first week of this year, the government tendered projects of 750 MW in Andhra Pradesh, 200 MW in Karnataka, and 275 MW in Uttar Pradesh.

What is more, at the International Solar Alliance, Modi claimed that India will generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of energy from solar power.

“In India, we have started the world’s largest renewable energy expansion programme. We will generate 175 GW of electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2022, of which, 100 GW will be from solar power. We have already achieved 20 GW installed solar power,” Modi said, Business Line reported.

Meanwhile, in a yet another boost to solar energy, the Haryana government has mandated the use of rooftop solar panels in schools, health centres, offices and more. This is in tandem with a state-wide project launched in Gurugram and Faridabad. The move is expected to curb pollution in Haryana, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the 11th most polluted city in the world.

What is more, India even has a complete solar-powered island. The union territory of Diu houses a 9 MW solar park in Fudam, which highlights India’s focus in tapping into better, cleaner ways to produce electricity. Built at a cost of Rs 62.48 crores, the solar park is increasing awareness about using renewable energy.

Why you should care

India is inching closer towards using renewable sources of energy. This highlights the government’s aim to protect the environment, with even government bodies like the Indian railways making efforts to go green. Developing solar power also showcases India’s potential to build sustainable energy sources. India’s comprehensive foray into the solar energy sector can act as an example for Africa and other regions in South Asia.

“It’s the purpose of the International Solar Alliance — to show that you can go on a massive transition, and that these are not Western models but something we have developed for ourselves,” Deepak Krishnan, manager for the energy program at the World Resources Institute, told the Los Angeles Times.

Solar parks help keep droughts in check. Moreover, land taken up by solar panels seem to help farmers. In terms of the Shakti Sthala, Live Mint reported that land for “the solar park has been taken on a 25-year lease by the government from around 2,300 farmers, and in return, they are paid an annual rental of Rs 21,000 per acre, with scope for a 5% increase every two years.”

Keeping these issues in mind, India should continue to take active measures to boost the production of solar panels, giving emphasis to renewable sources of energy.


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