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How the Pavagada Solar Park came into existence

How the Pavagada Solar Park came into existence

Located less than 200 kilometres from Bangalore, Pavagada in the Tumkur district of Karnataka is the site for the Pavagada Solar Park, which when completed, is projected to be the largest photovoltaic power-generating station in the world. Spread across 13,000 acres of land, this ambitious solar park is poised to generate over 2700 megawatts (MW) of solar power by the end of 2018.

This article discusses why Pavagada was chosen to be the site for this solar plant, along with the challenges of acquiring land from the farmers in the region.

Why was Pavagada chosen as the location for the Solar Park?

Located on an elevated plateau comprising of rocky hills, Pavagada is among the most arid regions in the country after the Thar desert, with an annual rainfall of only 46 centimetres between the months of June and September. Due to the frequent droughts in this region, the Karnataka state government has declared Pavagada as a drought-hit region 54 times over the last 60 years.

Pavagada has abundant sunshine throughout the year and has ample land availability. Little or no rainfall and lack of job opportunities has resulted in the region being sparsely populated, comprising mainly of poor farmers.

For these reasons, it was decided that Pavagada would be the right choice for the development of a Solar Park.

Development of the Pavagada Solar Park

The Pavagada Solar Park is being developed by the Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation (KSPDCL), which was formed in March 2015, as a result of the joint venture between the Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).

Using a “plug and play model,” KSPDCL has followed the mode of acquiring and developing the land for solar power generation and then auctioning the same to solar power developers (SPD) including Yarrow Infrastructure, Parampujya Solar Energy, and ACME Solar Holdings. A total of 6 SPDs have commenced work on the allocated land and have also signed power purchase agreements with electricity distribution companies.

Challenges and limitations of land acquisition in Pavagada

KSPDCL has been successful in acquiring 12,000 acres of the planned 13,000 acres required for the solar plant. Despite the poor crop yields, farmers in Pavagada were reluctant to sell their lands for the solar project. This issue was solved by leasing the area from the farmers for a period of 25 years instead of buying it from them. The farmers were paid a compensation amount of Rs. 21,000/- per acre, with a 5% appreciation for every two years.

Karnataka State Energy Minister, Mr. DK Shivakumar of the Congress party, is also looking into issues of poor power supply and jobs for around 5000 families in the region. The Energy Minister also announced an investment of over 15,000 crores in the region to generate local employment and ample power to prevent mass migration of the residents to other places in Karnataka.

Conclusion

The work on the Pavagada Solar Park commenced in October 2016 and is being built with an overall investment of 14,800 crores. By December 2017, around 500 MW of solar power will be commissioned, with an additional 1500 MW by September 2018. Mr. DK Shivakumar also announced in March 2017 the plan to set up windmills in the region.

This Solar Park could be the best thing to happen to Pavagada, putting the Taluk on the map. Almost 1 million houses will benefit from the power generated by the Pavagada Solar Park. In addition, it will help in cutting down the emission of carbon dioxide by 20 million tons. Natural gas calculated at 3.6 million tons will also be saved annually.

The process of leasing land will help farmers keep a steady income per year while still being able to keep the property in their name.