Indian farmers get boost from 2GW solar project

Dubbed the world's largest solar park, the $2.3bn Pavagada facility will lease land from struggling producers in an arid part of Karnataka state.

Farmers suffering from harsh climate in south-west India are set to receive a lifeline from renewable energy after the first phase of a megaproject was inaugurated.

Siddaramaiah, the chief minister of the Indian state of Karnataka, last week cut the ribbon on the first 600MW of capacity of the Pavagada Solar Park, which is set to become the world’s largest such facility when it reaches its full 2GW potential.

Contrary to most projects of this scale, however, Pavagada does not rely on massive land purchases. Instead, the 13,000 acres needed for its construction will be leased from farmers, at the rate of 21,000 rupees ($323; $262) a month.

This stands to be valuable income for local producers, many of which have been hit hard by repeated droughts in the region. The payments are set to reach 2,300 farmers across five villages.

KSPDCL, a joint venture between Karnataka Renewable Energy Development and the Solar Energy Corporation of India, implemented the project using a ‘plug-and-play’ model: the company leased the blocks of land and obtained government approvals before awarding contracts to power developers through auctions.

The leases, which have a duration of 25-35 years, are scheduled to increase 5 percent every other year.