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Giant solar hope for Ladakh

Srinagar, Nov. 21: The Union ministry of new and renewable energy plans a 5,000MW solar power plant in Ladakh which, if approved, could become the world’s largest solar project.

The project, planned in the Changthang area of Leh near the China border, will have a capacity more than three times the country’s installed solar capacity, a ministry official said.

Leh district commissioner Simrandeep Singh said the ministry had approached the administration to identify land for the project.

“It is only a proposal so far. We have been asked to work out the pre-requisites… to identify 20,000 acres of land and work out the technical feasibility and the means of transmitting power from the region,” he said.

Singh said the project required enormous tracts of land. “Changthang is the probable area because it is the only place in Leh where land is available while other areas are occupied.”

If the project comes up, it would be another feather in Changthang’s cap. The Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics is building the world’s largest solar telescope — the National Large Solar Telescope — in the area. The Rs 150-crore project will be commissioned in 2016.

The ministry of new and renewable energy has also approached officials in Kargil district to ascertain the availability of land for another 2,000MW solar project.

Farooq Abdullah, who heads the ministry, has taken the matter up with his son and chief minister Omar Abdullah, an official said.

Ashwini Kumar, director of the Solar Energy Corporation of India, said that if the Changthang project became reality, it would be the world’s biggest solar energy project.

“There is a plan (to build the project in Leh). We had a meeting recently in which the chief executive councillor in Leh also participated. They have said that land is available,” Kumar said.

If the project gets the Centre’s nod, the ministry will have to construct a power transmission line as well.

The Centre recently initiated the process of building a 4,000MW solar power project in Rajasthan on around 10,000 acres.