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Monday, 25 August 2014

The Indian Desert Power Mission 2050

Peak electricity demand of India is expected to grow to about 1700 GW by the year 2050 as envisaged in the report of Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and the PowerGrid Corp. of India Ltd (POWERGRID); accordingly the power generation has to be enhanced.

Vast potential to install Renewable Energy (RE):

India has large deserts viz. the Thar desert, Rann of Katchh, Ladakh, and Lahul-spiti valley and the total estimated wasteland is approximately 148,000 sq.km. There is a vast potential to install Renewable Energy (RE) power plants such as Wind and Solar in these deserts and wastelands. Upland with or without scrubs, under-utilized/ degraded notified forest land of these deserts are well suited for Renewable generation. Also land in these deserts with accumulation of sand and with rock exposure can be utilized for setting up RE power plants. Only a ten percent of this wasteland i.e. 14800 sq.km has the potential to produce nearly 450 GW from solar and wind generation.


Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has already envisaged setting up large solar power plants, to be called as Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects, in these deserts. The proposed locations are Sambhar (Rajasthan), Kharaghoda (Gujarat), and Leh/ Kargil (J&K). 

Seeing the potential, MNRE has entrusted POWERGRID to assess the RE generation potential in these desert lands and to develop the required infrastructure including the transmission system for a time horizon up to year 2050. The study will also asses the economical potential of RE, demand of power, grid balancing, and the impact of such a large scale integration of renewable power in the local area.  

Wind and Solar Hybrid Model:

Since deserts of Thar, Rann of Kutch also has a good wind flow, hybrid model of Wind and Solar, with 30% wind turbine and 70% Solar generation, is envisaged. The percentage of Solar plant is kept higher because of the greater yield of Solar generation, typically 30-40 MW/ sq.km, which is approximately 4 times higher than the wind output for the same area.  

Researchers conclude that hybrid plants, with wind and solar combination, produce almost double the energy on the same surface area. The model also ensures a steadier power injection into the grid as compared to RE plants with wind turbine or Solar PV alone.  

Environmental Benefits of the Mission:

It is expected that by 2050, generation capacity through RE plants, in these deserts will be approximately 300 GW. The weighted average specific CO2 emission from coal fired power plants is 1.09 ton/MWh as per the National Electricity Plan 2012. Assuming a capacity utilization factor of 25%, these RE plants are expected to substitute nearly half of the fossil fuel generation and shall replace 286 ton of CO2 emission.  

Ref: “Desert Power India-2050”, Integrated Plan for Desert Power Development, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd, Dec. 2013.