Karnataka: Pavagada to reclaim world’s largest solar park title

Sources explain that the world's number one solar park is not as large, and the government is all set to increase the capacity of the Pavagada solar park by utilizing available unused land.

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government is all set to expand the production capacity of the country’s second-largest Pavagada solar park in Tumakuru district from 2,050 MW (2.05 gigawatt, or GW) to 2,350 MW (2.35 GW) to reclaim its position as the world’s largest of its kind.

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Presently, China’s Zhongwei in Ningxia is the world’s largest solar power park with a 2.25 GW capacity, and the second is the one at Bhadla in Rajasthan with a capacity of 2.2 GW. When first commissioned in 2019, Karnataka’s Pavagada Solar Park was the world’s largest.

Sources explain that the world’s number one solar park is not as large, and the government is all set to increase the capacity of the Pavagada solar park by utilizing available unused land.

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The Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation Limited (KSPDCL) possesses 12,972 acres of land on lease. There are 40 blocks of 50 megawatts in the park, with each block covering 250 acres. Findings suggest that by utilizing 1,200 acres of land, 300 megawatts could be produced, increasing the park’s capacity to 2,350 megawatts.

“The department is going to tender it out shortly. The document in this regard has gone to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Committee (KERC) for approval. Within 15 days, the tender will be floated,” said sources in the state Energy Department.

Karnataka Energy Minister K.J. George told IANS, “As Karnataka continues its journey towards a more sustainable future, we are committed to driving the development of renewable energy projects that will benefit our state and its people. We are working in tandem with the community and will strive to create a greener, cleaner, sustainable, and eco-friendly energy landscape for the state and the nation.”

“Our vision is to empower our nation with the brilliance of sustainable energy and make the Pavagada Solar Park the unrivalled number 1 solar park in the country,” he said.

“Also, our state currently stands at the fourth position in the renewable energy sector. We are resolutely committed to ascending to the first position. Under the able leadership of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Energy Department and KREDL (Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited) is poised to spearhead this transformative journey,” George added.

K.P. Rudrappaiah, MD of KREDL, told IANS: “Pavagada Solar Park, commissioned in 2019, was the largest in the world with a capacity of 2,050 megawatts. It was the first time the government of Karnataka came up with the leasing model, which was unique. Subsequently, solar parks in China and Rajasthan have come up with slightly higher capacity, at least 200 megawatts more than what we are producing. We are planning to increase the capacity by 300 megawatts. Once commissioned, it will again become the world’s largest solar park.”

“We are working on it. Once the approval comes from the KERC, the tendering and commissioning will be taken up. It will take about 18 months,” he added.

States like Gujarat and Rajasthan are planning to come out with much bigger solar parks, but their status is not known yet.

“Karnataka is fourth as far as installed capacity is concerned. States like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat are ahead in terms of installed capacity. We are coming out with plants in Bidar and Kalaburagi districts. Things are changing drastically in the sector,” Rudrappaiah said.

“In southern India, Karnataka was the first to bring out the Renewable Energy Policy. The state is always at the forefront in bringing policies. In 2009, when the policy was brought, the capacity in the state was 2.4 GigaWatts, and now it has increased to 16 GigaWatts,” he said.

KSPDCL is a joint venture of KREDL and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a Government of India undertaking. It operates under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

The land for Pavagada solar park was obtained on a lease basis from farmers, which was unique and had not been done before. The outright purchases were made for the establishment of industries. It was unique as the land was not acquired forcefully and was established based on principles of inclusion and social justice. In 2014, expressions of interest were called in six to eight districts, including Tumakuru, for anyone owning more than 100 acres who wanted to lease their land for the solar park.

The state government then came up with the Solar Policy, which laid out that the solar park has to come in the most backward district, as per the Nanjundappa Committee report. The people of the Pavagada region in Tumakuru responded well, and it was chosen. The Central government gave Rs 240 crore in subsidy, and the remaining capital came from the Solar Power Developers.

The government left the lands in between the solar park whose owners refused to give away their land on lease. Approach roads have been provided to these lands, small temples, and grave tombs.

KREDL took care of evacuation, approaching roads, street lights, and drainage facilities. The land is taken on lease from farmers were given to developers on sub-lease. The park operates on the basis of a plug-and-play model.

Electricity Supply Companies (ESCOMs) of Karnataka are purchasing 1,850 MW at an average tariff of Rs. 3.4 per unit and the balance 200 MW is being purchased by Uttar Pradesh Discoms.

Local area development activities at a cost of Rs 82 crore were undertaken by KSPDCL for the project-affected areas.

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