India to explore PV potential of its desert regions

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India's central government has commissioned a new study designed to explore the renewable energy potential of the country's vast desert regions.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has instructed the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) to conduct an exploratory search of the country’s driest and least developed regions, focusing on the deserts of Thar, Rajasthan; Rann of Kutch salt marsh in Gujarat; the valleys of Lahul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, and the largely barren Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Piyush Goyal, India's minister of state for power, coal and new and renewable energy, has commissioned the study following the publication of a 2013 report titled Desert Power India – 2050 that assessed both the renewable power potential of the country’s deserts and the feasibility of building the required infrastructure in order to maximize the regions’ potential.

The report concluded that the desert areas of India could potentially possess the potential to deliver 315.7 GW of solar and wind power, if fully realized. Early estimations by PGCIL suggest that the investment levels required to fulfill such potential would exceed $72 billion.

The Thar desert in northwestern India – also known as the Great Indian Desert – covers more than 200,000 square kilometers and acts as a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. As the world’s ninth-largest subtropical desert, Thar attracts a handful of ecotourists each year, and is home to many scattered settlements. Despite this, Thar is actually the most densely populated desert in the world with 83 people per square kilometers, compared to the desert average of seven people per square kilometer.

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