|The Charanka Solar Park in Gujarat, India takes the lead as the largest single solar power field in Asia.|
|Gujarat Solar Park|
Drenched with sunlight, India is pressing forward in making maximum use of that limitless resource. This past week, the west Indian state of Gujarat added another 214 megawatts to what is now the world's largest photovoltaic solar power field. Gujarat's 214 MW Charanka Solar Park, covering 1,000 acres of desert, is the largest single installation in Asia, larger than China's 200 MW Golmud Solar Park, and the single largest segment of a 600 MW, 3,000 acre solar power field. The total project contributes two-thirds of India's total 900 MW of solar power production.
Speaking at the inauguration of the park, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said, "This achievement is not merely a step in the direction of power conservation, but it provides the world with a vision of how the power needs of future generations can be solved in an environment-friendly manner." Mr. Modi explains that Gujarat has budgeted another $400 million for developing renewable energy, with plans to promote residential rooftop solar use as well. At present, renewable energy accounts for only 6 percent of India's 185 gigawatt capacity. But the government hopes to increase that to 15 percent or more by 2020, with solar making up at least 3 percent. It is anticipated that the Charanka PV park will eventually be joined by additional projects at Anand, Banaskantha, Jamnangar, Junagadh, Kutch, Porbandar, Rajkot, Surat, and Surendranagar.
21 companies are involved in the development and management of the solar park, including four from the United States. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, U.S. Consul General Peter Haas, commented, "The development of clean energy sources is crucial not only to development, it is also crucial to addressing climate change and energy security." Appropriately, the completed solar project is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 8 million tons a year.
Conventional ground-mounted solar is not the only system Gujarat is pursuing. The government is also taking advantage of the otherwise unused space above irrigation canals. A series of solar panels have been installed atop a one-kilometer length of the Narmada Main Canal and is generating approximately one megawatt of power. The plan is to mount solar panels along the entire length of the 485 kilometer long canal, from the Sardar Sarovar Project dam on the Narmada near the Madhya Pradesh border to the Rajasthan border. In addition to generating power, the panels shade the canal, helping to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
With such ambitious projects underway, India is demonstrating that solar power has a practical role to play in satisfying the world's increasing demand for energy.