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Huge commercial level solar project to join string of coal plants in Pakistan’s Thar district

Millions of solar panels are set to be mounted upon swathes of soil in Block VI of Tharparkar district’s coalfields in Pakistan — news that is making waves locally.Located 380 kilometres east of Karachi in Sindh province, these coalfields are divided into 14 blocks, but so far work has only begun in blocks I and II.“It will be the largest [single solar plant in Pakistan] by a single entity,” says Naheed Memon, chief executive officer of the UK-based Oracle Power, the mining company behind this much-touted one gigawatt (GW) project. If completed, the project could significantly help Pakistan to achieve its goal of deriving 60 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. However,this particular solar project is being built in the shadow of ongoing coal projects in the Thar desert. In fact, Oracle Power is developing both solar and coal in the province.Thar’s coalfields cover an area of 9,100 square kilometres and contain over 175 billion tonnes of lignite — a poor-quality and commonly more polluting type of coal.These lignite reserves are among the largest in the world.