New Delhi: Contracts to build the world’s largest solar power facility in Gujarat, valued at $10 billion (Rs48,200 crore) and backed by former US president Bill Clinton, will be awarded by January, a state government official said.
The 3,000MW project will get help with logistics and finding financing from the William J. Clinton Foundation, a charitable group started by the former president, said S. Jagdeesan, principal secretary (energy and petrochemicals) in the state government. The foundation and the Gujarat government had signed a preliminary agreement on 8 September.
Brighter future: A service engineer does maintenance work on tube solar collectors near Ahmedabad. Gujarat’s 3,000MW project will get help with logistics and finding financing from the William J. Clinton Foundation. Sam Panthaky / AP
The Clinton foundation will help in bringing manufacturers and power generators, and in providing access to international funding at cost-effective interest rates, Jagdeesan said in an interview.
“They are facilitators. We will invest in the infrastructure. The project may be developed on 10,000 ha of land spread across three locations within an area of 150 sq. km in Gujarat,” he said.
India has joined China in trying to reduce emissions and dependence on coal by betting on alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. The Indian government is working on a National Solar Mission that envisages putting up 20,000MW of solar power capacity by 2020.
India receives the equivalent of 5,000 trillion kWh of solar energy a year, the government said in response to a Parliament question in February. At present, the country has just 2.1MW of installed solar power capacity.
First Solar Inc., a US-based renewable energy company, announced this month it will build a 2,000MW solar plant in China. One megawatt is sufficient to power a 10-storey office building.
The Clinton Climate Initiative, a part of the foundation, will help identify manufacturers of solar thermal equipment, which uses the sun’s rays to heat a medium such as water to turn turbines. The manufacturers will be selected in three-four months, Jagdeesan said.
The Gujarat government will set up solar parks in special economic zones and encourage equipment suppliers to set up manufacturing facilities close to the generation site to reduce costs, he said.
“Three-thousand megawatts is huge,” said Keith Hays, director of research at Emerging Energy Research in Barcelona, Spain. “Most solar thermal projects we’ve seen are several 100MW. With solar thermal, you get more megawatts per square hectare of land compared with other technologies to harness the sun’s energy such as photovoltaic.”
The project will take a minimum of five years to develop and the Gujarat government hopes to get cheap financing from multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, Jagdeesan said.
The state government may include hybrid plants in the project that use both solar energy and natural gas to generate power, he added.
“When there is sunshine, we’ll generate using solar and when the sun is not shining, we’ll generate using natural gas,” he said. “Gas is available to us in Gujarat. We will provide gas connectivity.”
The Gujarat government, headed by chief minister Narendra Modi, has taken the lead among Indian states in promoting solar power. It has allotted 716MW of solar generation capacity to 34 Indian and international developers, apart from the Clinton foundation-backed plan.
The developers include Arlington, Virginia-based AES Solar Energy Ltd, a joint venture between AES Corp. and Riverstone Holdings Llc, and Spain’s Abengoa SA.