India welcomed the delayed arrival of a state-of-the-art solar thermal plant in northwest Rajasthan state this weekend, hoping to stave off blackouts that have troubled the country for the last two years. The Godawari Power-owned facility is the largest solar-thermal plant in Asia, capable of producing up to 50 megawatts by concentrating the light of the sun through over 5,760 mirrors to drive a steam turbine and began it’s output this Saturday. Despite being over budget and behind schedule, the plant sets an exciting benchmark across a country desperate for power.
Plagued by blackouts as fossil fuel-powered facilities lay idle without any raw materials to process, India has opted to install 20,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2022 – a staggering leap from the the current 1,700 megawatt benchmark set at the start of the year.
As well as good news for the people and commercial energy customers of India, the government’s decision to put all it’s weight behind solar comes as a massive boon to the global economy.
Why? Late last year, Time magazine published worrying figures that showed India was fast catching up with China as the world’s most coal-hungry nation.
With a history of steel and mining, and lacking the budget for green-investment that China has been spending wisely, fears lingered that India’ industry would continue to rely on coal whilst many other equally-populous nations move towards decarbonisation.
Managing Director behind the Godawari project, Siddharth Agrawal, says that his company, along with backing from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, firmly believe putting their weight behind renewables is the best choice, and solar the only choice:
“Solar thermal is the only solution for grid parity,” Agrawal said. “Photovoltaic can’t take you to that scale, solar-thermal technology benefits from being able to store and supply energy around the clock, like coal and gas-fired plants:
The Rajasthan facility is the first of seven projects for Godawari Power, totalling 470 megawatts between the sites and a US$1billion investment.