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Environmental Concerns Flagged At India’s Largest Solar Park

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Concerns raised by the wildlife department have forced the Indian government to shift the planned location of the largest solar power park in the country.

Image: Zach Shahan |

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has been forced to shift the proposed location of the 5 gigawatt solar PV park following objections from the wildlife department. The solar power park is part of the 7.5 gigawatt solar power development in the union territory of Ladakh, which includes a 2.5 gigawatt solar park in the district of Kargil.

SECI has already issued tenders for these solar power parks and had even invited interested project developers, transmission network implementors and other stakeholders for site survey. The initial site of the 5 gigawatt Ladakh project was located very close to an all-weather road which would have made it much easier for the project developers to access the site throughout the year.

The local wildlife department, however, noted that the location is a breeding ground for several protected species and SECI must look to relocate the project. The new proposed site is also located along a national highway, however, that road is blocked for six to eight months in a year during to heavy snowfall. This relocation may very likely raise new questions in the minds of project developers regarding the timely implementation as well as the viability of the project itself.

The union territory of Ladakh does not have any major utility-scale solar power projects even though it has among the highest solar irradiation resource in India. In order to utilize this resource, several Indian governments have contemplated setting up large-scale projects multiple times in the recent past. This is the farthest that the Indian government has ever reached in this endeavor. The government is also planning to set up long-distance transmission lines from these solar power parks to feed the power demand of a number of large states located in the northern part of the country.

This is not the first time that a large solar power park has been scrapped or relocated due to environmental concerns. A 4 gigawatt solar power park planned near the Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan was cancelled in 2014 as the proposed project location was also a site for migratory birds.

Last year, the Minister for New and Renewable Energy announced plans to set up 25 gigawatts of solar power capacity in Ladakh as the region holds immense solar radiation resource. Ladakh, along with the district of Kargil, has recently been reclassified as a union territory by the Indian government and is now under the direct governance of the federal government. Hence, it could be expected that large-scale solar power projects would likely be expedited.

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An avid follower of latest developments in the Indian renewable energy sector.

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