Heat that can give you blisters. Fluoride contaminated water that can leave your bones brittle. Endless stretches of barren land where rains have stayed away for almost half a century. Thorny bushes the only vegetation in sight for miles.
An apt description of Pavagada—less than 200 km from Bengaluru, but it may as well be on another planet. The region is part of a large semi-arid tract in eastern Karnataka’s border district of Tumkur, which sits on an elevated plateau with several rocky hills all around. The state government has had to declare the region drought-hit 54 times in the last 60 years.
The bone-dry region may be a bane for farmers, but could be a godsend for the state government which wants to experiment with something big—build what it claims is the world’s largest solar park.
The aim is to generate around 2700 megawatts (MW) from the Pavagada solar park by the end of 2018. The idea resonates with the centre’s ambitious scheme to generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020.
Work has begun in right earnest on the project. Roads now cut through the vast expanse of sand. Scores of workers in hard hats and covered in dust are at work, putting up substations and power lines. The first phase capacity of 500MW has been bid out and generation is expected to start in the next four months.