It’s been a long time coming, but the first 600MW (megawatt) of the world’s largest solar park (these are also called solar farms) has been opened. The full 2GW (gigawatt) capacity is scheduled to be fully operational by December 2018.
One of the reasons the project has run into timing snags is that it uses a unique participation project in which the land for the park is leased from local farmers under a 28 year agreement. There were 2,300 land-owning farmers involved in the project, so one can imagine there might be a few hiccups along the way. Under the agreement the farmers continue to own the land.
The park is in a remote area of Karnataka state in India. It is named Shakti Sthala or ‘Energy Centre’ and will cover 50 square kilometres – 20 square miles. About 800,000 households and 36 villages in the state’s northern region do not have power supply.
Solar park is on drought-stricken land
For the farmers there is a lot of upside. The land has faced several decades of drought and crop failures. Not surprisingly for a drought stricken area, the site of the park has high sunlight exposure.
Karnataka has emerged as the third largest producer of renewable energy in India and the state Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar said “We have set the goal to source at least 20 per cent of people’s power requirements from renewable projects.”
Once fully operational, Shakti Sthala’s 2 billion watt capacity will be 450 megawatts larger than the current world’s largest solar park, the Tengger Desert project in China.
China was far and away the largest builder of solar capacity in 2017, with investments of $132B increasing its total solar generating capabilities to 100 billion kilowatt hours.