As the sun blazes down on the Thar Desert, pushing solar radiation levels beyond 400 W/m2, a new renewable energy plant is now harnessing the immense power of sunlight to power Rajasthan, India’s largest state.
The biggest in Asia and first of its kind in the country, the 100-megawatt concentrated solar power plant became fully operational this month, addressing chronic power shortages that stifle business and keep homes in the dark. It is also helping India reduce its dependence on domestic and imported fossil fuels.
At the same time, the plant shows the commercial viability of large-scale, grid-connected Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) plants in tackling the world’s energy security needs.
CLFR focuses the sun's heat onto a system of tubes carrying water, which is then transformed by the concentrated sunlight into superheated steam (400°C at 90 bar pressure) that feeds a steam turbine to generate electricity. The technology has minimal environmental impact, requires less land than other solar power projects, and has proven to be more efficient than other solar thermal technologies.
The plant, developed by a subsidiary of Reliance Power, one of the country’s top private energy firms, will produce almost 240,000 MWh of clean energy per year.
Solar energy is one of the must abundant energy sources in India, which averages around 300 sunny days per year. The government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aims to take full advantage of that potential to provide better access to energy, and reduce the dependence on imported fossil fuels to promote sustainable economic growth.
The project—supported by a $103 million loan from ADB and $4 million from the Future Carbon Fund, a trust fund managed by ADB—was registered as a Clean Development Mechanism project by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2012, and is expected to reduce over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next ten years.
And it’s not just about cutting emissions.
Located on approximately 340 hectares of state-owned land in the thinly populated village of Dhursar in Jaiselmer district in western Rajasthan, the plant also aims to provide a number of socioeconomic benefits to the local communities, such as greater mobility through newly constructed access roads, and economic opportunities like direct employment for young people — including women. Reliance Power is also closely working with local communities to support education, especially for girls, establish medical facilities, and dispense vocational training.
Infrastructure development and protecting the environment are two of ADB’s five core operational areas under Strategy 2020, ADB’s long-term strategy. The project is aligned with both, as well as with ADB’s country partnership strategy with India for 2009–2012, which aims to support inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth through continued focus on infrastructure development and enhanced focus on renewable energy.