Bengaluru: The Karnataka government inaugurated the first phase of a 2,000 megawatts (MW) solar park in the drought-prone Pavagada region of Tumkur district, about 180km from Bengaluru.

The first phase of the Rs16,500 crore park called “Shakti Sthala” will generate 600MW, while the balance 1,400MW is expected to be commissioned by the end of this year, the government said in a statement.

The solar project, touted as the largest in the world, is spread over 13,000 acres and five villages. It is part of the “Karnataka Solar Policy 2014-2021” which aims to decrease dependence on traditional power sources and move to environmentally friendly ones to meet the growing power needs of the state.

The solar park is also part of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s “Nava Karnataka Nirmana” (building a new Karnataka) campaign, used extensively by the party in the run-up to the 2018 assembly elections to highlight its economic development and job creation efforts as well as to attract big ticket, high investment projects to the state.

The park ties in with the centre’s scheme to generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020.

The land for the solar park has been taken on a 25-year lease by the government from around 2,300 farmers, and in return, they are paid an annual rental of Rs21,000 per acre, with scope for a 5% increase every two years.

The move was intended to curb the mass migration of people from the region which has been declared drought-hit in 54 of the last 60 years.

“Development and economic growth of a nation occurs when its people become partners in the development process,” Siddaramaiah said in a statement on Thursday. He said the state was the third-largest renewable energy producer in the country and has set a target of sourcing at least 20% from renewable sources in the future.

The park’s development was initiated with the creation of the Karnataka Solar Power Development Corp. Ltd (KSPDCL) in March 2015 as a joint venture between Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL) and Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI).

NTPC Ltd pulled out of the project a month ago saying it was unable to supply procured power at the agreed cost, The Hindu reported on 25 January. According to the agreement, NTPC was to buy 600MW from six developers at Rs4.80, and supply it to state electricity supply companies at a bundled tariff of Rs3.30 per unit. The move left the state government looking for fresh bids. Other setbacks include the postponing of auctions for 1,200MW capacity and legal complications with another 860MW.

KSPDCL uses the “plug and play” model, under which it acquires and develops land as blocks for solar power generation, embedded with the required government approvals, and gives it out to solar power developers (SPDs) through auctions.

Karnataka, which continues to face power shortage, increased its capacity from 14,030MW in 2012-13 to 23,379MW in January this year, through all sources including hydel, thermal, nuclear and biomass.

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