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Until now, the only thing shining in the Rann of Kutch was a mirage. Now, the scorching sun could light up another sparkling ring along 
the inhospitable border with Pakistan, if a Rs 61,019 crore dream comes true. And, it won't be an illusion, but real mirrors.

With about 45 investment promises lined up in solar energy sector, Gujarat plans to promote the desert as a hub for renewable energy.

However, the shadow that could fall on Gujarat's solar ambitions is that tapping energy from the Sun has so far proved technically complicated and economically unviable. Also, the scale of just one of the projects  the Clinton Foundation proposal to generate about 5,000 megawatt of power  is way larger than India's biggest power project of 3,260MW in Vindyachal. The biggest solar power plant planned so far is a 160MW project in Portugal.

Gujarat has decided to allocate 1,500 hectares of land in the desert and a small stretch in Santalpur in Bankaskantha district. The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation will create infrastructure for the ambitious `Solar Park'.

Companies have queued up for setting up plants largely due to the incentives offered in the new Solar Power Policy, including exemption from electricity duty and demand cut of 50% of the installed capacity. Units that start production before December 31, 2010, can avail these concessions.

Also thrown in is a guarantee to buy power for 12 years at its production cost Rs 13 per unit for photovoltaic projects and Rs 10 per unit for thermal projects.

``Land availability is not an issue here. Also, sunlight is plenty and rainfall sparse. It is an ideal location for solar power generation as well as component manufacturing,'' said a senior official in the chief minister's office. Barring a large cement plant in north-west of Kutch, all industrial projects have come up south of the district.

Apart from Kutch, the Clinton Foundation is also exploring the international borders in Banaskantha and Patan districts. A joint study conducted by the foundation and Tata Energy Research Institute show that Kutch offers the best solar radiation.

Last week, projects with 716MW of solar power capacity have been allotted to 34 national and international project developers, including PLG Power, Lanco Solar, Moser Baer, Solar Semi Conductor, AES Solar, Astonfield, Torrent Power, Adani Power, Abengoa, Electrotherm, Welspun, NTPC. Put together, these projects will see investment worth Rs 12,000 crore over the next few years. US-based AES Corporation is mulling to set up the world's largest solar project in the state by 2010, sources said.


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