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India Announces Its First Solar City (In Order To Protect Taj Mahal)

The Indian city of Agra, former capital of the Indian subcontinent and home of the Taj Mahal, is to become the country’s first solar city.

The Indian government’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has approved plans to build 2,000 kWp of capacity in the city, around 10% of it’s current consumption, which will come from a variety of sources. These include over 1.5 million gallons of heated water per day, 6400 solar street lights, 4600 solar cookers, and 20 solar traffic lights.

The overall budget for creating India’s first solar city is estimated at $100 million, of which 70% will be shouldered by the private sector and 27% by the government. This includes both the installation of renewable energy technologies and the introduction of complimentary energy efficiency schemes.

Over 30% of the planned energy savings will come from installing solar water heating into homes while another 35% will come from domestic energy efficiency measures like phasing out incandescent light bulbs and upgrading air conditioning and refrigeration units.

The plan is scheduled to run for 5 years which fits in well with national plan to generate 1172 MW of solar energy by 2016 and the plans of the state of Uttar Pradesh, in which Agra is situated, to produce 500 MW by 2017. The south Indian city of Anantapur is also going solar. The city in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is set to become the first municipality in the country to set up a solar power project to power its water pumping operations and street lights.

However despite all these facts and figures the solar city project isn’t motivated by a desire to “go green” or save money, despite Agra’s 2008 call for a youth summit on climate change. The solar city plan is being put into action to save the Taj Mahal.

This great monument has been under threat from air pollution for decades: coal fired power stations were ordered to convert to gas by 1997; a nearby refinery ordered to build a hospital for respiratory disease victims and petrol powered vehicles banned from a few miles from the mausoleum. In 1998 the government spent around $44 million to try and clear up the city’s pollution but within years levels around the Taj Mahal had rebounded. Dangerous levels of NOx and small particulate matter are especially prevalent.

The solar city plan was born from renewed attempts in 2009 to try and save India’s most well known UNESCO world heritage site, which also included a plan to plant hundreds of thousands of tulsi trees which were chosen for their air purification properties.

 
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is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.

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