The Finance Minister has indicated that the Central government would provide ₹8,300 crore towards a ₹20,700 crore project for building an “inter-State transmission system for evacuation and grid integration of 13GW renewable energy from Ladakh.”
What is this all about?
Ladakh is the best place in India to put up solar power projects. Why? A solar photovoltaic power plant needs two factors — lot of light and no heat. Ladakh has both. With no dust to scatter the sun’s rays, Ladakh has the highest amount of sunlight falling on the panels. Further, the land is completely barren and is available to the solar power developer practically for free. One of the best sites in Ladakh is the Spang Valley (pictured), about 140 km from Leh.
Some experts believe that without bringing Ladakh into the equation, India cannot do green hydrogen, because only Ladakh can deliver renewable energy to the electrolysers at cheap enough costs.
But the problem is, Ladakh is in the boondocks. Since it is too far from anywhere, the question of how to evacuate the power produced has no answer. This is why no major renewable energy project has come to Ladakh, though the idea of putting up solar plants in Ladakh was mooted as long back as 2014.
Last year, the Power Grid Corporation of India did a study on the feasibility of building a 765 kV line from Kaithal in Haryana to Spang, Ladakh, about 900 km. Spang alone can accommodate 13 GW of solar projects.
This transmission line has now been allocated ₹8,300 crore from the Centre.
Nawang Thinless, a renewable energy entrepreneur based in Leh, says there are many other places in Ladakh where solar projects can come up. Skyang chu Thang is one such place — a vast 40km stretch of flatlands. Ladakh is also a huge potential for wind projects — about 100 GW, according to an estimate of the National Institute of Wind Energy. Dr K Balaraman, former Director of NIWE, tells businessline that the winds are consistent and it is possible to get 40-42 per cent PLF in Ladakh, far higher than what is seen in other windy states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Of course, there is the issue of transportation of the large blades and towers through the mountain roads, but smaller machines can be installed there. Balaraman says that transporting machines up to 1 MW shouldn’t pose a problem.
Ladakh does not need much energy for itself — not more than around 150 MW. It has enough of it during the summers, but when the rivers freeze in the winters, hydroelectric plants can’t generate any electricity and Ladakh has to buy power from elsewhere.
Renewable energy projects can not only fully provide energy to Ladakh but the Union Territory can also make good money by selling electricity to other states.