The Karnataka government has inaugurated the first phase of a 2,000 megawatts (MW) solar park in the drought-prone Pavagada region of Tumkur district, about 180km from Bengaluru.
- The first phase of the Rs16,500 crore park called “Shakti Sthala” will generate 600MW, while the balance 1,400MW is expected to be commissioned by the end of this year.
- The solar project, touted as the largest in the world, is spread over 13,000 acres and five villages. It is part of the “Karnataka Solar Policy 2014-2021” which aims to decrease dependence on traditional power sources and move to environmentally friendly ones to meet the growing power needs of the state.
- The park’s development was initiated with the creation of the Karnataka Solar Power Development Corp. Ltd (KSPDCL) in March 2015 as a joint venture between Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL) and Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI).
- The solar park is also part of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s “Nava Karnataka Nirmana” (building a new Karnataka) campaign, used extensively by the party in the run-up to the 2018 assembly elections to highlight its economic development and job creation efforts as well as to attract big ticket, high investment projects to the state.
- The park ties in with the centre’s scheme to generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020.
- The land for the solar park has been taken on a 25-year lease by the government from around 2,300 farmers, and in return, they are paid an annual rental of Rs 21,000 per acre, with scope for a 5% increase every two years.
- The move was intended to curb the mass migration of people from the region which has been declared drought-hit in 54 of the last 60 years.
- The state was the third-largest renewable energy producer in the country and has set a target of sourcing at least 20% from renewable sources in the future.