Gujarat Solar Park switched on

Gujarat PV plant

On the 19th of April 2012, the world’s largest solar energy producing park was switched on. With phase one having a capacity of 214MW of photovoltaic panels, the Gujarat Solar Park, in the northern state of India, became Asia’s largest solar PV power plant, beating China’s 200MW Golmud Solar Park. When phases two and three of the park are completed, total generating capacity will be 500MW.

The project was made possible with investment from 21 different companies, including several key investors from the USA. Together they have helped to contribute to India’s long-term goal of increasing overall energy use that comes from renewable energy sources from 6% to 15% by 2020.

Although the Gujarat Solar Park will have a final cost of 105 billion Indian rupees ($US2.3 billion), a further $400 million is being reserved for the increasing of this region’s solar power production capacity, which includes funding for residential support in terms of household solar power production.

In total, it covers approximately 1200 hectares of land which borders the Rann of Kutch (salt marshes found in eastern India). The land on which the solar farm is built is sparse, desert land which would be scarcely of use for anything else (such as farming, comfortably living or raising livestock). The Gujarat land is exposed to abundant strong sunlight, making it ideal for India’s leading solar energy park.

While the activation of the Gujarat Solar Park means big things for global solar energy production, there is talk of an even bigger plant soon to be under way in Tunisia. Known as the TuNur scheme, it will involve a 2000MW (2GW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to be operational by 2016.

However, amid all this exciting talk of solar energy projects and production from our neighbouring and not-so neighbouring countries, Australia’s solar energy schemes seem to be significantly dormant. Australia is absent from the list of leading solar energy producers and seems to be falling behind with innovative solar energy projects.

Yet, much of our landscape in central and western states reflects the kind of land that the Gujarat scheme has been built on. It is strange that in a country traditionally famous for its sunshine, our deserts—where the Australian sun is harshest—aren’t being used for solar energy parks.

The extent of India’s solar energy dedication is inspiring, and bodes well for the future of renewable energy plant construction. The Gujarat park makes Australia’s solar energy efforts seem unevolved to say the least.

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