In the vast expanse of the Rann of Kutch, a salt desert that stretches between India and Pakistan, an ambitious renewable energy project is underway, poised to become the world’s largest when completed in three years. Named the Khavda renewable energy park after the nearby village, this solar and wind energy initiative is not only set to be visible from space but also a beacon of hope in India’s transition to cleaner energy sources. With thousands of laborers toiling in challenging conditions, the park aims to supply 30 gigawatts of renewable energy annually, a significant contribution as India strives to install 500 gigawatts of clean energy by the end of the decade.
Situated in the unforgiving Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, Western India, the Khavda renewable energy park is defying odds by emerging as the epicenter of India’s clean energy transition. Spanning 726 square kilometers, equivalent to the size of Singapore, the project comes with a hefty price tag of at least $2.26 billion. Despite the arduous conditions of the salt desert, thousands of workers and engineers have dedicated themselves to the project, living in makeshift camps for nearly a year.
Upon completion, the Khavda park will produce 30 gigawatts of renewable energy annually, enough to power almost 18 million Indian homes. This monumental effort aligns with India’s ambitious goal of achieving 500 gigawatts of clean energy and reaching net-zero emissions by 2070. Currently, over 70% of India’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, primarily coal, making the shift to renewable energy a pivotal aspect of combating climate change.
The Khavda project is particularly challenging due to its remote location, marshy terrain, high winds, and susceptibility to earthquakes. Despite these obstacles, the Adani Group, contracted by the Indian government to build 20 gigawatts of the project, remains committed. KSRK Verma, the project head, emphasizes the complexity of the undertaking, citing the lack of habitation, marshy land, high winds, and frequent rains as formidable challenges. Vneet Jaain, managing director of Adani Green, acknowledges the first six months were spent building basic infrastructure, illustrating the project’s demanding nature.
In Mundra, 200 kilometers away from the site, the Adani Group manufactures solar and wind energy components. The wind energy factory aims to produce India’s largest turbines, each capable of generating 5.2 megawatts of clean energy. Ajay Mathur, director general of the International Solar Alliance, praises India’s journey in renewable energy production, asserting that the Khavda project will inspire other developing countries to make similar changes.
However, the environmental impact of such projects raises concerns among experts and activists. The exemption of clean energy projects from environmental impact assessments in the salt desert, rich in flora and fauna, is seen as potentially detrimental to the ecosystem. Abi T Vanak, a conservation scientist, highlights the unique landscape of the salt desert, home to diverse wildlife. With renewable energy projects expanding without assessments, the delicate balance of these ecosystems may be compromised.