Despite concerns over feasibility and sustainability of renewable energy, the solar industry continues to be in the news. In 2014, the Centre under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission had set an ambitious goal of building at least 50 solar parks each with a capacity of 500MW with an estimated central financial assistance of Rs.8,100 crore by 2020. Post the announcement, 38 solar parks are being built in the country as of January 2018. But for now, Karnataka has taken the lead by inaugurating the world’s largest 2,000 MW capacity solar power park — Shakti Sthala at Pavagada in Tumakuru district for an investment of Rs.16,500 crore. The state government claims to have constructed the park in a record two years. This ambitious project spans across five villages, covering 13,000 acres. In the first phase, the park will generate 600 MW power, which will be bought by NTPC, while an additional 1,400 MW is expected to be generated by December. The other solar parks in the country include the 1,500 MW at Ananthapuramu-I, 1,000 MW at Kurnool and Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, 1050 MW at Agar-Shajapur-Rajgarh and 750MW at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, 1100 MW at Charanka in Gujarat, and 658 MW at Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu. Currently, Karnataka’s Pavagada enjoys the status of having country’s largest solar park but Rajasthan’s upcoming Bhadla solar park will have a capacity of 2,255 MW when fully operational by 2019. The land for Pavagada has been taken on a 25-year lease from 2,300 farmers for an annual rent of Rs.21,000 per acre, with a 5% escalation clause after every two years. Pavagada is among the drought-prone regions in the state. Due to extreme weather conditions and a dearth of opportunities, more than 10,000 people migrate every year from the town. To curb this mass migration, the state has made landholders and farmers key partner in the project. But with elections just round the corner, whether the renewable push will fetch dividends for chief minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress is still in question.
A sunny affair
Karnataka is now home to the country’s biggest solar park
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