The ‘solar canals’ making smart use of India’s space

As the harsh midday sun beats down on a small, dusty village in Gujarat, western India, lines of blue solar panels on steel support structures snake their way to the horizon. The panels cover the top of irrigation canals, gleaming like iridescent mirrors. This small village of 40 homes with thatched walls and tin roofs, and lumbering stray cows, was one of rural India’s many communities who, until recently, did not have electricity. But now a lamp lights each home so children can study at night, and farmers can milk their cows long after sunset.

India has relied traditionally on coal-fired power plants, which generated 72% of the country’s electricity in 2018-19. India’s combination of abundant sunshine – about 300 sunny days in a year – and a large energy-hungry population makes it an ideal location for solar. The country’s solar capacity reached 36.6GW at the end of the first quarter of 2020, with the aim of growing to 100GW by 2022.

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