India's solar powered future clashes with local life

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India's solar powered future clashes with local life

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India's solar powered future clashes with local life


"Bhadla is almost unliveable," says TS Keshav Prasad, the chief executive of energy company IF&FS.

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He is talking about part of the Thar desert located in Rajasthan in the northwest of India.

Temperatures there typically range between 46C and 48C and frequent sandstorms add to the inhospitable conditions.

But what makes Bhadla an unforgiving place to live, also makes it an ideal place to generate solar power.

Thanks to the abundant sunshine, Bhadla is home to the world's biggest solar power farm, in part built and operated by Mr Prasad's IF&FS.

Soaking up the sunshine are 10 million solar panels with the capacity to generate 2245MW, enough to power four and a half million households.

While keeping the solar panels clean in such a sandy and dusty environment is a challenge, Mr Prasad says running such a vast solar plant is still much simpler than operating almost any other kind of power station.

"There is not much equipment involved. Solar panels, cables, inverters and transformers are almost all that are needed to run a plant," he says.

The plant, which was completed in 2018, has bought investment and opportunities to one of India's most remote regions.

"Most of boys in my village did not study much. They were not ambitious, as our life was limited to the village, and our parents are farmers or into breeding cattle. But since the construction of the park, I realised the world is much bigger than my village," says 18-year-old Mukhtiyar Ali.

"Because of Bhadla Park many engineers, officers and educated people visit our villages, which has changed my perspective towards life.

"I want to be an officer [in the solar park] who has authority, respect, someone who can to bring change in other people's lives," he says.

But not everyone is thrilled about the giant solar park that has been built on their doorstep.
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