India’s Energy Revolution: Where India Goes, Climate Goes | national geography

India is seriously looking at a future where a large part of the energy comes from sun, wind and water. Since 2010, when the Indian government expressed the modest desire to generate 20 gigawatts of solar energy annually by 2022, ambitions have been significantly sharpened. This is due, among other things, to the sharp drop in the price of solar cells and the available government subsidies for the construction of large solar parks. The target of 20 gigawatts was reached four years ahead of schedule, and the new target of 100 gigawatts is expected to be reached already this year. The current capacity of sustainable energy from solar, wind, biomass and water is around 151 gigawatts. Before 2030, the capacity must be increased to 500 gigawatts.

For this ambitious plan to succeed, India wants to build more solar and wind farms in states like Rajasthan, which consists of two-thirds of the desert. In summer, the temperature here sometimes rises above 45 degrees. Large parts of Rajasthan are uninhabited due to the relentless weather. Subodh Agarwal, the chief administrator of one of the desert districts in the 1990s, says he was regularly stuck in sandstorms. “Then the roads just disappeared under a layer of sand.”

Until recently, this inhospitable region was considered a wasteland with nothing to do. But some parts are now undergoing a true metamorphosis. In Bhadla, for example, an area of ​​57 square kilometers has been turned into a dark blue sea of ​​solar panels. “You don’t see that color very often here in the desert,” said Agarwal, who was involved in the project as head of the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation, a government agency that allocates land and attracts investors for solar and wind energy projects.

The solar park in Bhadla is one of the largest in the world and has a capacity of 2.25 gigawatts – enough to power a million households. And more such solar parks are being built in Rajasthan. I visit a park under construction near Jaisalmer, a town on the border with Pakistan famous for its impressive medieval forts.

Arriving at the solar park, we pass thousands of towers of boxes with solar panels ready to be unpacked and mounted on metal stands. The first panels have already been installed on a number of hectares. Every few days, the panels must be rinsed down to remove the accumulated dust. As I walk between the rows, I hear the hum of the motor slowly tilting the panels to absorb as much sun as possible at any time of day. In a nearby building, six engineers sit at their computers to check that all panels are working properly. “We are currently producing 167 megawatts of power,” says one of them. He points to a graph on his screen showing that the amount of electricity produced has been increasing since this morning.

‘We get the most energy between twelve and one, then it drops until the sun has set.’ One of the bottlenecks in India’s energy revolution is the scarcity of home-made solar cells. In this park, all the panels are produced domestically, but in most solar parks the panels come from China. Earlier this year, the Indian government pledged 2.45 billion euros to boost domestic production of solar panels.

India has high expectations for this type of large-scale project, but, like Solanki, also counts on the cooperation of the population. For example, farmers can get subsidies if they lease land to operators of solar parks and solar pumps. In sunny states like Rajasthan and Gujarat, homeowners and entrepreneurs are getting solar panels installed on their roofs. And in rural Rajashtan and Maharashtra, women with the help of Solanki’s Energy Swaraj Foundation set up their own solar panels and lamps.

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