As the hot summer triggers increased use of electricity, load shedding and power cuts in many States, the power-surplus Gujarat is sitting pretty, and defining the season differently: it has emerged the largest solar power maker in India, producing two-thirds of the nation's total solar power generation of nearly 900 MW.

As a feather in the cap, even the new building of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), in Gandhinagar, turned a completely solar-powered government building earlier this month, using 80 KW of solar electricity daily.

Within three years of declaring its Solar Power Policy in 2009, the State Government has achieved these distinctions and attracted Rs 8,000 crore worth of investment in the generation of 600 MW of solar power via its solar mission. Thirty-four national and global private players were allotted capacities totalling nearly 716 MW, to be developed by December 2011.

These capacities were allotted against the 500-MW capacity declared earlier under the Policy. Of the 716-MW allotment, the share of solar photovoltaic technology and solar thermal technology was 365 MW and 351 MW, respectively.

The newly-developed Solar Power Park in Patan district, dedicated to the nation on Thursday by the Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, is the single largest such location in Asia, spread over 3,000 acres of mainly government land. Its solar power potential is 500 MW out of which it now has an operational capacity of 214 MW.

In 10 other districts, where similar but smaller projects were conceived, another 390 MW is being produced using the virtually inexhaustible source of renewable energy gifted to Gujarat by nature. And the private sector has taken a lead in this movement. The State Government is in the process of acquiring some private land as well to achieve the full capacity of 500 MW in Solar Park.

The Gujarat Solar Park is an innovative concept of the State Government to promote solar installations in which it allocated developed land to the project developers with the entire infrastructure including power evacuation, roads and water for commissioning of the power project put on fast track. Another similar park is likely to come up in Banaskantha district of North Gujarat as well.

Under its Solar Power Policy, the State Government had signed up MoUs for generation of 968.5 MW by December 2011 and also took an initiative to launch the Gujarat Solar Park with a vision to build it as the world's largest solar power park. Its foundation stone was laid in December 2010.

The 600-MW project dedication ceremony is being followed by the “India Solar Summit 2012: Investment and Technology Expo” to be held in Gandhinagar on April 20 and 21 to showcase Gujarat on the global solar power map.

Also, in September 2009, The Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), a programme of the US-based William J Clinton Foundation, had announced the setting up of the world's largest solar power plant in Gujarat with an estimated investment of Rs 50,000 crore likely to flow into the State over the next five years (up to 2013). The proposed 3,000 MW plant —one of the four being set up by CCI across the globe — promised to make Gujarat the solar power hub of India. Gujarat had identified four locations along its international border with Pakistan for solar projects.

Clearly, the world has taken notice of these developments. The Patan function was attended by global experts and representatives from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and the US.

(This article was published on April 19, 2012)
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