India just unveiled the world's largest solar power plant in Kamuthi, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The mammoth project, which spans 10 square kilometers (about 6 square miles), was built in just eight months, another display of India's furious pace of development.
When running at full capacity, it will be able to provide electricity for 150,000 homes through 648 megawatts. That's more electricity than the average coal plant in the US produces, and is nearly 20% more powerful than the world's second largest solar plant, which is in California. The panels will be cleansed daily by a solar powered robotic system to ensure maximum efficiency.
As of next year, only the US and China will be producing more solar energy than India, and the country shows no signs of slowing. In fact, if it is to reach its goal of powering 60 million homes through solar by 2022, it will need to accelerate construction.
The country is approaching 10 gigawatts of solar, and will need about 100 GW to reach its goal. But the country generated only 161 megawatts in 2010, so this trajectory is feasible.
Ultimately, India wants at least 40 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2030. It will develop its own technologies, but it’s also calling on other countries to share existing technologies to accelerate the transition. In fact, India’s efforts are estimated to cost $2.5 trillion by 2030 and the country is asking for other countries to chip in.
The biggest obstacle that India faces in its solar expansion could be available land. Solar power plants currently require tremendous chunks of land and many other demands are competing for space in the country, including modern housing.
As the world continues to shift toward renewables and research improves existing technologies, solar panels, wind farms, and other methods will no longer become a secondary source of energy. India, in particular, is critical to this global effort against climate change. More than 300 million Indians do not have regular access to electricty. Coal is an easier way to provide these citizens with electricity, but if India is able to achieve this through renewables, then the environment will be in a much better place. Going forward, countries need to develop a renewable-first approach to their energy portfolio and, with the world's help, India should be a leader.