India is planning 55 gigawatts of new solar and wind development along its often contentious border with Pakistan, according to a dispatch last week by Agence France-Presse.
“Mired in an economic slowdown, the government has tripled spending over the last three years as part of its push to cut down the use of oil and coal,” AFP writes . Now, “India plans to build a string of renewable energy projects along its sun-baked, wind-whipped western border, officials said on Monday, as New Delhi continues an ambitious program to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.”
The government wants to locate the projects in barren desert areas “in a bid to avoid using agricultural land,” the news agency adds, and considers the sunny, windy “ideally suited” for renewable energy systems.
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“We are studying land feasibility and have identified projects worth 30 gigawatt capacity for Gujarat and 25 gigawatt capacity for Rajasthan,” said New and Renewable Energy Secretary Anand Kumar. “These projects will help reduce India’s carbon footprint and adhere to promises made at the 2015 Paris Agreement.”
“Since most of these western border areas are wastelands or semi-desert, they are perfect for setting up these projects,” agreed Amit Bhandari of the Mumbai-based think tank Gateway House.
Project construction will begin “under high security, within 18 months of the Ministry of Defence giving the go-ahead,” PV Magazine reports . “It is not clear why the Indian government has chosen to make such a huge infrastructure investment along the border at a time when tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad are inflamed, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Indian-controlled Kashmir of its autonomous status in August.”
Renewables currently account for 23% of India’s electricity generation capacity, and PV Magazine says the country has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions one-third from 2005 levels by 2030.