acquired January 26, 2022
Soaking Up Sun in the Thar Desert
- Landsat 8 - OLI
- Data Date: January 26, 2022
- Visualization Date: February 9, 2022
Scorching temperatures, infertile soils, limited water supplies, and frequent wind storms make the Phalodi township in India’s Thar desert an inhospitable place to live. Yet the abundance of open space and sunshine make this remote part of western Rajasthan an ideal place for harvesting solar power.
Construction of the Bhadla Solar Park, near India’s border with Pakistan, began to appear in satellite imagery in 2015. Now millions of solar photovoltaic panels blanket Phalodi, giving a metallic look to landscapes that were once sandy and brown. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this natural-color satellite image of the park on January 26, 2022.
Bhadla Solar Park spreads across more than 5700 hectares (22 square miles), an area about one-third the size of Washington, D.C. It has a total capacity of 2245 megawatts, among the largest solar parks in the world. Its presence recently helped Rajasthan overtake Karnataka as the Indian state with the largest installed solar capacity, according to Mercomm India.
Though the area’s consistently clear skies mean sunlight is abundant, frequent dust storms pose an engineering challenge because they coat the panels with layers of minerals and sand that hamper electricity production. Some operators have chosen to unleash thousands of cleaning robots on the panels, a tactic designed to cut manual labor needs and reduce the amount of water required for cleaning. Some recent research suggests that Landsat imagery could assist such systems by helping companies identify dust buildup and optimize cleaning operations.
- The Hindu (2021, November 12) World’s largest solar park in Bhadla, India. Accessed February 10, 2022.
- The Indian Express (2018, June 26) Catching the sun at Bhadla solar park. Accessed February 10, 2022.
- Long Reads (2022, February 8) India’s solar energy transition leaves villages struggling. Accessed February 10, 2022.
- Supe, H. et al (2020) Google Earth Engine for the Detection of Soiling on Photovoltaic Solar Panels in Arid Environments. Remote Sensing, 12 (9), 1466.
- YSG Solar (2021, June 16) 15 Largest Solar Farms in the World in 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.
- Wired (2021, June 16) The promise and perils of the solar energy boom. Accessed February 10, 2022.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Adam Voiland.
This image record originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.