After just 14 months of preparation and the collaboration of 21 countries, the Indian state of Gujurat has just turned on the world’s largest solar powered plant, to the tune of $2.3 billion and a 600MW generating capacity. Given its size, this is more of a solar-city than a mere plant, coming in at 5,000 acres, producing as much energy as a well-oiled (forgive the pun) fossil fuel plant or nuclear reactor.
With the advent of this new addition to the grid, India plans of powering forward into the renewable future with goals of 15% by 2020, with current values sitting around the 6% mark. Now that’s not nearly as ambitious as some of the other keen-on-green nations, such as Denmark’s wild 100% mix by 2050, or the 30%-40% goals of the UK, Germany or other Scandinavian players, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.
Given India’s stance on the global stage in the last climate talks, touting itself as a solar leader with the technology to back its claims, it would finally seem things are coming to fruition. Further investment of $400 million has been laid out for promotion and advancements, and residential solar is being pushed as the next step for India.
Unfortunately, this latest project pales in comparison to the TuNur proposal in Tunisia, part of the DESERTEC initiative focused on building solar plants in the African deserts. This whopping 2GW plant will dwarf even the Gujarat attempt, and plans to be complete by 2016. This plant however takes the form of a concentrated solar power generator, whereby panels direct sunlight onto a single collecting tower, producing intense heats to boil water and spin turbines.
The one question that does arise in reading these, to me at least, is that of how many more similar builds can be undertaken before space becomes a serious issue? In countries devoid of deserts of wide open, flat spaces (think Japan, SE Asia or many EU nations), there is unlikely to be room for multiple builds in similar scale to the Indian or Tunisian effort, and unless urban spaces are integrated fluidly, it’s a real stumbling block.
However, considering the rapidity at which solar efficiency is rising, and the introduction of tech like the ‘black’ cells, which can capture near-100% of the sunlight, or 3D panels which double or triple conversion rates, similarly powerful plants could become smaller and smaller.
Anyway, you only need to look at this below image to see that us humans have PLENTY of solar energy at our disposal, we just need to actually use it!