India building a solar power plant the size of Manhattan--it will be the biggest in the world

Clare Saxon Ghauri
13 February 2014

NEW DELHI: India is planning on building the world’s biggest solar plant, which has the potential to triple the country’s solar capacity.

The Government of India announced a Memorandum of Understanding for the project last month, which was signed by Indian ministries and six public-sector companies.

The planned site near Sambhar Salt Lake in Jaipur, Rajasthan measures 30 square miles, which is a larger space than Manhattan.

More than ten times bigger than any existing solar project in the world, the plant will help slash India’s CO2 emissions by over 4 million tons a year according to The Energy and Resources Institute.

Once it is built the plant will boast a 4 gigawatts power capacity, an amount that would drastically increase India’s renewables offering.

Currently India has a grid-connected solar capacity of 2.18 gigawatts, but is aiming to get as much 20 gigawatts from renewables by 2022 and over 200 gigawatts by 2050.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates that the first phase of construction of the giant plant will cost around US$1.08 billion, and is already approaching the World Bank for a US$500 million loan to kick off the first 750 megawatts of construction.

One of the biggest public sector undertakings in the country, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited will lead the first phase of the project (1,000 megawatts) along with key state-owned outfits including the Solar Energy Corporation of India, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Hindustan Salts Ltd and Power Grid Corporation.

Some environmentalists have criticized the size of the project, warning that the surge in power would be wasted in India’s inefficient grid. They suggest that smaller projects in rural areas would have a bigger impact on improving energy access for Indian people--40% of who are still not connected to the grid. 

The Climate Group’s Bijli - Clean energy for all project offers such energy distribution. The project aims to reduce emissions and enhance the lives of rural communities in India by deploying renewable energy technologies and improving infrastructure quality.

Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager, The Climate Group, commented: "While it is crucial to deploy renewable energy technologies for the energy security of the country, it is equally important (if not more) to make sure that the energy generated is equitably accessible to all sections of the society. Smaller projects in rural areas can have a far reaching and disproportionate impact on marginalized communities while ultra and mega green projects like this largely remain neutral to the differences in economic statures and social positioning."

India added over 1 gigawatt of solar power to its electricity grid in 2013, a landmark figure which saw the country's total solar capacity almost double to 2.18 gigawatts, according to the Government of India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. 

The growth, which was partially driven by India's National Solar Mission and state-level policies, shows that India is on track to hit its solar target of 10 gigawatts by 2017, and 20 gigawatts by 2022. 

sambhar salt lake india nasa

Site of the planned giant solar plant (Image credit: NASA)

Related news:

India almost doubles solar energy, with big plans for more

The Climate Group partners with SELCO India to provide clean energy solutions for rural communities in Maharashtra, India

The Climate Group, World Bank Institute and Dutch Postcode Lottery launch off-grid energy competition in India

By Clare Saxon

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