Karnataka’s Pavagada shows a way amid criticism for solar power at UNCCD COP14

Solar most land-hungry among green power sources, claims report released at Delhi event to fight desertification

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 06 September 2019
Pavagada solar park. Photo: Google Maps

Generating Solar power needs the most amount of land among green energy sources, claimed Global Land Outlook, a report released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

At the same time, India showcased the biggest solar power plant as a model to deal with land degradation while meeting energy requirements, at a side event at the UNCCD’s 14th Conference of Parties (CoP14).

The report underscored how extraction of energy, from both fossil and renewable sources, needs land. It marked biomass as the most land-intensive energy source.

Illustrating how solar power depended on the availability of land, it pointed out that Concentration Solar Power System (CSP) takes up 15 square metre for every megawatt hour while coal takes barely five.

On the other hand, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) along with the governments of India and Karnataka showcased the Pavagada power plant, billed the world’s largest solar park spread over 13,000 acres of land.

Farmers who gave up land at Pavagada were satisfied, claimed ISA Director Uprendra Tripathy and said it can be an example for states like Rajasthan with abundant wasteland.

The 2000 MW solar park is spread across five villages — Thirumani, Rayacherlu, Vallur, Balasamudra and Kyataganacherlu in Nagalamadike Hobli of Pavagada Taluk in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district.

The arid region with fallow land was not irrigated and a drought-like situation prevailed continuously, an official said. People were forced to migrate as they couldn’t make a living off the land.

The Karnataka government decided to establish big solar plants in the area. It amended the Karnataka Land Reform Act, 1964 and Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands Act, 1978 to speed things up.

A committee constituted in 2015 to deal with lease rent finalised a rate of Rs 21,000/acre/annum with a 5 per cent escalation every two years. The lease is for 28 years.

Even if five per cent of the state’s waste land is be used for solar power plants, 25,000 MW will be generated, Mahendra Jain, an additional chief secretary with the state energy department, told Down To Earth.

He added that the state was also exploring options like floating solar power plants.

The Pavagada model was also appreciated by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Executive Director Ujjwal Bhattacharya.

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