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India To Build World's Largest Solar Plant 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
ananyo writes "India has pledged to build the world's most powerful solar plant. With a nominal capacity of 4,000 megawatts, comparable to that of four full-size nuclear reactors, the 'ultra mega' project will be more than ten times larger than any other solar project built so far, and it will spread over 77 square kilometres of land — greater than the island of Manhattan. Six state-owned companies have formed a joint venture to execute the project, which they say can be completed in seven years at a projected cost of US$4.4 billion. The proposed location is near Sambhar Salt Lake in the northern state of Rajasthan."
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India To Build World's Largest Solar Plant

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  • When you have State funding and a free pass on environmental regulations.

  • Congratulations to India for leading the world on a big step away from fossil fuels.
    This is what all the world should be doing if we are going to reduce the effects of global warming and climate change.
    • by fnj (64210) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @02:01AM (#46159479)

      Congratulations to India for leading the world on a big step away from fossil fuels.
      This is what all the world should be doing if we are going to reduce the effects of global warming and climate change

      India has an installed capacity of 234 GW [wikipedia.org]. I'm not sure that adding solar power of less than 2% of that figure counts as a "big step away from fossil fuels". Necessary beginning step, sure. Commendable, arguably. Significant, maybe. Precursor to "big", possibly.

  • by steveha (103154) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @11:44PM (#46158689) Homepage

    According to TFA, this will be a huge photovoltaic plant. But as I understand it, solar thermal is more efficient, and for a large centralized project like that, I would have expected solar thermal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    Does anyone know why they are going photovoltaic for this project?

    Photovoltaic certainly does have some pluses: it's simple, no moving parts. But for a project of this capacity I should think they would go for the most efficient solution.

    Plus a thermal solution with molton salt [wikipedia.org] would provide a nontrivial amount of storage, for power after dark.

    So, what am I missing? Does India have lots of factories making photovoltaic cells or something?

    • Good point, especially about storage. That has always been the bugbear of renewables. OTOH, there are new storage technologies coming available in the next couple of years, such as liquid metal batteries, sodium ion batteries, water-moderated compressed air, and probably some others I haven't heard about. But of course there's no mention of any kind of storage in TFA, so who knows if/when/how it will ever be implemented.

      Frankly, this project sounds like one of those feel-good boondoggles dreamed up by big g

      • You don't need storage if you don't want to store the energy. It is that simple. India surely has about 100 power plants. Now one additional PV plant is added, why and for what purpose would you want to store the energy of one single plant?
        Hint: the difference between demand at night and demand and highest peak over the day is a factor of 2.5. A PV plant produces its energy right at the time where it is needed the most, hence unless you want to 'replace' existing plants in a greater schema you don't need an

    • by slew (2918) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:29AM (#46158949)

      So, what am I missing? Does India have lots of factories making photovoltaic cells or something?

      Why not Solar Thermal? As I understand it...

      1. Lack of local companies that make solar thermal equipment (aka CSP or concentrated solar power).
      2. Lack of experience with large deployment unlike PV like 50:1 in MW to date (no experience means no reference projects to predict ROI for contracting companies or investment banks)
      3. Lack of water resources for cooling (most simple solar thermal needs reliable-access to cooling water to avoid equipment malfunction).

      Of course India could deploy a minimal water solar thermal solution (e.g., air cooled or maybe Heller towers), but they have even less experience with that and most government funded programs require a minimum make-local percentage.

    • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:40AM (#46159007)

      It's cheaper.

      There is a glut of photovoltaics on the world market ever since the european countries cut the subsidies. Most notably Spain and, more recently, Germany. Which is responsible for the sudden drop in prices. It is not better technology, despite what the propaganda claims (otherwise solar power companies wouldn't go bankrupt all over Germany).

      And yes, solar thermal is more useful on paper. Unfortunately it takes up just as much space as PV and needs lots of water for it cooling towers. However, solar thermal depends on very stable weather patterns. It cannot tolerate cloudy days very well - so you'd best build it in a desert, where cooling water is kind of rare as you can imagine. You'd need 24 million cubic meters of cooling water per year for an equal sized solar-thermal power plant.

      What would be needed for PV to work is storage. Hydrogen/methane seems to be the only plausible/scalable solution so far. Unfortunately, even with the best technology we have on the planet, you'll need at least 3kWh electricty to get 1kWh of electricity back out of storage. Thus the average power of the power plant will drop from 800MW down to about 500MW, assuming that at least some part of the power will be used directly. (The amount of storage that is necessary depends on a lot of factors, mostly what power is available from other sources and how variable the weather patterns and seasons are. So 500MW is just a ballpark figure.)

      • by sir-gold (949031)

        Germany is a terrible place for solar. Minnesota gets more sun energy per year than Germany

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Nowhere is a terrible place for solar. No matter where you are on earth the panel will pay for itself and more over its lifetime.

          • Nowhere is a terrible place for solar.

            Here's a graphic example of that:
            http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2008/08/solar-to-reboot.html

            Even what is possibly the coldest place on Earth with a very long dark winter is a good place for solar panels - even if they are just tied vertically to poles!

            Here's another:
            http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/pn31.jpg

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      A lot of Indian electricity is used for air conditioning, so in that respect, output from a pv solar panel will very closely match demand.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      But as I understand it, solar thermal is more efficient

      Yes but it's more capital intensive and more experimental and nobody wants to take the first big step. Photovoltaics are very well established now so it's the "safe" choice.

      There's been some solar thermal built recently for preheating steam in a coal fired power station to save on fuel costs but not much else lately.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @11:47PM (#46158721)
    Too bad their electrical infrastructure is like a spider web that got caught in a hurricane.

    However, this is smarter than it seems on the surface. If you lose 60% of your electricity during transport due to crappy, outdated lines and equipment, it's a hell of a lot better if solar was the source. If it was a CO2-emitting source, that's an awful lot worse. If it's the sun, you really didn't lose anything.

    I am concerned about their ability to store the electricity for night time or when it's not sunny. Even the US hasn't perfected that one.
    • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:53AM (#46159061)

      spider web that got caught in a hurricane.

      No kidding [regmedia.co.uk].

      • nitpicking, but anyone who has lived in Mumbai for long enough will know that this is not a picture from that city. Mumbai is a little bit more organized.
        --- feeling a little defensive because of the picture's name and the fact that i grew up in Mumbai.
        I agree with the overall idea, though.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Funny you should mention that after an old and unreliable bit of the US electrical infrastructure got caught in a hurricane and burnt a lot of places down.
      Starting late has some advantages as well as disadvantages. Being complacent, laughing at others, then watching things burn because cheap 1930s shit is still in service has nothing but disadvantages.
  • I wonder if those estimates include the transmission infrastructure to carry the electricity to high usage areas? The Wind Farm rush of West Texas had every energy company throwing up wind turbines to get the government subsidies. Next thing you knew there was more power generation in West Texas than the transmissions lines could carry back to Dallas where it was needed. The cost of storing electricity is more than it is worth so large amounts of electricity were being shunted directly into the ground while
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:00AM (#46158783)

    First of all: It will generate less energy than that. Averaged over the year about 800MW. The amount of energy it will generate between 6pm and 6am is roughly zilch. During the short time around noon, when it will generate on the order of 3+GW (depending on weather, season, condition of the solar cells etc.), there will be no industry capable of actually using it, because 2-4 hours of electricity a day is simply not worth the investment. (Before and after this time, the power drops off quickly.) Even 8 hours would be too short, because you'll need 2 or 3 factories working in parallel for 8 hours a day to produce as much as a single factory can in 16 or 24 hours.

    Finally wrap your head around the fact that quality of service cannot be compared by using peak power generation.

    P.S.: Yes, noon is just the right time to get your air conditioning started, but unfortunately, when it comes to India the question is mostly: What air-conditioning are you talking about?

    • by willy_me (212994) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @01:31AM (#46159311)
      This generation can be used to offset the additional load of air conditioners - it is not going to be the only power source. Considering that air conditioners use the most power when it is sunny, it actually works out all right.
    • by sir-gold (949031)

      You claim that it will produce less energy that stated in the article. Have you seen the blueprints or something? How are you are in a position to know more about it's capacity than the people who designed it?

    • Even 8 hours would be too short, because you'll need 2 or 3 factories working in parallel for 8 hours a day to produce as much as a single factory can in 16 or 24 hours.

      India recently announced a National Electricity Grid with southern grid joining, the north, east and west. So its a single grid which is supposed to do all sort of wonders (which I don't know much about, but sounds good anyway.)
      Plus Rajasthan borders Delhi and Gujarat...two of the most industrially developed states which will consume any electricity thrown at it, and Madhya Pradesh - one of the backward states - think of Appalachia - where your contention "what air-conditioning in India" rings somewhat tr

    • by dbIII (701233)

      P.S.: Yes, noon is just the right time to get your air conditioning started, but unfortunately, when it comes to India the question is mostly: What air-conditioning are you talking about?

      Daytime industrial demand dwarfs everything else.

  • We can plant a house, we can build a tree.
  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:53AM (#46159057)

    "The solar photovoltaic power plant will have an estimated life of 25 years and is expected to supply 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours per year, according to official figures."

    For reference, a single 1GWe nuclear plant operating at (a conservative) 0.85 capacity factor will produce 7.45 TW-hours/year of reliable power. So this solar plant isn't the equivalent of one reactor, much less four. Considering that nuclear plants typically last 60 years and AP1000s are near $2/W in China, the solar option costs five times as much over that time frame.

    While this solar farm is idle at night and unreliable by day, the transmission infrastructure must be built to handle the full capacity of the equivalent four nuclear plants, and it will sit idle most of the time. The solar option makes no economic sense, when instead they could purchase two actual 1GWe nuclear plants, and have 15 TW-hours/year of reliable power for more than twice as long.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      Considering that nuclear plants typically last 60 years

      Hasn't happened yet for a single one let alone "typically". BTW - where are you getting those unlikely projections from? Extraordinary claims require SOMETHING to support them.

      AP1000s are near $2/W in China

      Not actually running yet so where are you getting that from?

      "For reference" is supposed to mean something more than an estimate. How about something from a plant that is actually operating? There must be a few you can give some numbers on since t

  • General Sherman is the largest plant. India's solar thingie isn't even alive.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:36AM (#46160207)
    Pakistan and India had equal opportunities to develop after partition. They both took different directions.

    Now one has its flag on the moon and the other has a moon on its flag.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by dbIII (701233)
      To be fair a big chunk of Pakistan is a tribal area that was never run by the English and is certainly never been run by a Pakistani government.
      Before you knock it consider how close it is to what many of the "libertarians" on this site are asking for.

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