Why renewable energy projects need smart siting

“The end justifies the means” — but at what cost and who pays for it? This question is creeping up on the renewable energy (RE) sector, which is contributing increasingly to India’s energy mix. The current government has set an ambitious RE target of 450 GW by 2030.

Though RE plants are considered green, they could have unintended impacts. Recent projects in this sector have been troubled by unintended socio-ecological conflicts due to flaws while siting land parcels and inadequate planning.

For instance, a wind power project in Pune partially damaged the local ecology leading to substantial soil erosion and large-scale deforestation as more than 3 lakh trees were cut down against the sanctioned 26,000. Land acquisition for RE projects, thus, is beset by several issues that lead to the loss of livelihoods, and endangerment to local ecology and wildlife.

Land acquisition issues

Solar, wind, and hybrid power projects are land-intensive and require a substantial area for installation. A solar photovoltaic (PV) system requires around 4 acres of land per megawatt (MW), while a 2 MW wind turbine requires an average of 1.5 acres of land. Based on this thumb rule

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