Western State of Rajasthan has recently become the first state in India to surpass 10 GW of installed large-scale solar power generation capacity. Currently the largest producer of solar power among Indian states, 26% of Rajasthan’s installed power capacity comes from solar (at the end of 2021, India had an installed capacity of 55 GW of solar power).
Western Rajasthan is the epicentre of this solar revolution. Till recently, this area was known for the great sand dunes of the Thar desert spread far and wide in Barmer and Jaisalmer and the adjoining districts. Today when you travel in this area, solar panels and windmills are some of the very first things that catch your attention. This is mostly barren land. There is almost nothing here except for sand dunes and occasional thorny bushes. Summer temperature climbs often up to 47-48 degree Celsius. Human life here is difficult and there is shortage of almost everything but not sunshine.
Rajasthan enjoys some of the highest solar irradiation in India and this coupled with easy availability of land (125 lakh hectares of unused land) has made Western Rajasthan India’s solar power hub. The state has a total of 32.5 GW of installed power capacity, with renewables contributing an impressive 55% and solar is the leading renewable source (64% of all renewable).
Many of these plants are hybrid in nature – apart from solar panels, they also have windmills. In fact, the tall windmills have become another attraction for the tourists in this region, who used to earlier come only for desert safari and to see the magnificent Sonar fort at Jaisalmer. This huge push for renewables has also boosted the local economy by creating new employment opportunities.
This is most visible in Barmer – till recently a sleepy backwater, discovery of oil turned the fortunes of Barmer in last few years, and it is fast becoming a wind and solar energy hub too. Raj West Power Plant of the Barmer district is producing 1080 MW from 8 units of 135 MW each. Apart from this, there are other solar and wind firms now and more are coming up at areas like Arang and
Ratkuriya. Pokhran, Fatehgarh, Bhaniyana areas of nearby Jaisalmer districts are the other favourite destinations for solar parks.
This area is also home to the Bhadla Solar Park – currently the largest solar park in the world. Spread over 14,000 acres in Phalodi area of Jodhpur district, 36 solar plants of 18 large companies are established here. Currently, 2,245 MW of electricity is being generated here. Not only that, at around Rs 2.5/kw-hour, Bhadla produces some of the cheapest solar powers in the world.
Approval has already been granted for establishment of another 26,720 MW renewable projects in the state, including Adani Green’s 8,000 MW solar and 1,700 MW hybrid plants at Jalore and Jaisalmer, ReNew Power’s 10,000 MW solar plants at Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer, JSW’s solar, wind and hybrid plants at Jaisalmer and Jalore and Greenko’s 3,600 MW solar, 900 MW wind and 2,520 MW storage plants, i.e., plants. Proposals for another 15,000 MW of solar and hybrid plants have been submitted to the government for approval.