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The Indian government has announced that it will develop, with the help of state-owned energy companies, the largest solar power plant in the world. The planned project, which will use solar photovoltaic cells, will have a final capacity of 4,000MW (4GW), and be located in the western state of Rajasthan.
The size of the project requires it to be split into separate phases, with phase one planned for commission in 2016, with a capacity of 1,000MW. This phase one alone will be ten times larger than any other solar power plant in the country.
India has struggled with severe power cuts in recent times due to its ageing energy infrastructure, and the fact that demand for electricity far outstrips the supply. In an attempt to address this problem four coal-fired Ultra Mega Power Plants (UMPP) are under construction, with production capacities of around 4,000MW.
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Whilst the coal UMPPs are unsustainable and highly polluting, they can offer electricity at far lower costs than the solar plant, however they also face major troubles due to the availability of low cost coal. Tata Power and Reliance Power, the companies who own and operate the coal plants, have asked for permission to increase the electricity tariffs they offer in order to allow them to use more expensive coal supplies.
The UMPPs have been designed to burn low carbon coal in order to reduce the extra emissions that they would produce. India is already one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, and cannot really afford to begin releasing even more greenhouse gases. The problem is that India’s coal has a low carbon content (this actually means that it burns less efficiently and therefore emits more emissions), and therefore the coal they use must be imported, increasing the cost.
Millions of people around India do not have access to electricity and giant solar projects such as this offer a long-term solution.
The project will be developed by a joint venture of five state-owned companies: BHEL, Powergrid Corporation, Solar Energy Corporation of India, Hindustan Salts, and Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments Ltd.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com