Bhadla, Rajasthan: Bhadla village on the fringes of the Thar Desert about 200 km from Rajasthan's famed Jodhpur city wasn't on the tourist map and nobody ever went there. It only made headlines for extreme heat, temperatures that went up to 52 degrees in the summer. But the sun's bounty is now helping change the lives of the people. It is the heart of India's clean energy push, home to the Bhadla Solar Park. A recent auction of solar power to be generated at a new 250 megawatt plant was recently auctioned for just about Rs 2.62 for every unit, or kilowatt-hour. This would be among India's cheapest sources of power, certainly a lot cheaper than the average tariff of Rs 3.2 per unit for coal-fired thermal units.
Once the solar park is fully operational, the project spread across 10,000 acres, or 40 sq kilometres of wasteland will be a power gold mine, designed to generate 2,255 megawatts of power. That is a little more than one-third of the peak daily demand in the national capital of 6,000 MW, or for that matter, Rajasthan total demand for power.
The park already has two phases in operation, producing 480 MW of power. And big names in the business of powering India are lining up to invest in the solar park, many such as the Adani, Tatas and Reliance have signed up pacts for development of solar parks. Finnish company Fortum and South Africa's Phelan energy and Cleanteach are already investors in Bhadla.
But the park has done a lot more than breathe life in this part of the state. It is also creating opportunities for local businesses and employment for the youth that could bring about a huge turn around in the economy of this backward desert region.
The parks already have over 1,000 technicians and staffers from all across the country working in shifts to keep the power grids going; four in every ten of them are locals from nearby villages and towns.
"There was nothing here except animal husbandry. Now, whether it is jobs of security guards, labour or site supervisors, the job opportunities are many,' said Praveen Rathore a manager with Vikram Solar.
Rohitash is from the backward Bishnoi community, one of the few engineers from his community. He is happy about getting a job in the solar park that pays him a monthly salary of 40,000,
Rohitash Bishnoi talks about how youngsters in western Rajasthan would traditionally target government jobs, particularly the police. But now people see a future for themselves after doing a technical course.
In the past 4 years, I know 100 people have taken admission in technical courses. Those who pass out, find work at the park. "About 40 local engineers are employed here," he said.