Coal India Limited (CIL) is reportedly planning to construct solar power projects in a number of areas of India totaling one gigawatt of capacity. CIL wants to reduce its carbon footprint and plans to finish a 250 MW installation in the Madhya Pradesh area within twelve months.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Solar Energy Corporation of India and CIL, but one issue that might delay the remaining 750 MW of projects is finding appropriate sites. Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand have been suggested as possible locations, as have Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

It’s commendable that a coal mining company would seek to reduce its carbon footprint — the thing is, it is basically being forced to. One gigawatt of solar is quite a large amount, but India is a massive country — one of the most populous on Earth. It has ambitious clean energy goals, and surely will achieve many of them, if not more.

Adding new solar capacity is not only about reducing climate change emissions, though. Solar power plants can be built faster than coal plants, so they have a value that coal plants do not, to fill in gaps in electricity supply. They also can help shore up electrical grids that are overburdened and serve somewhat as backups when there are disruptions.

Due to the decline in solar costs, they also simply make sense financially in some cases, where they are more cost-competitive than fossil fuels. They also don’t produce enormous amounts of harmful air pollution, and some urban centers in India have far, far too much of that already. It is very sensible of the government to require that its agencies and government-owned companies use cleaner energy.

Constructing solar power plants also creates a lot of new jobs, and sometimes these new plants are located in areas with high unemployment, so they contribute to local economies by providing clean energy jobs.

Image by Bernard Gagnon, via Wiki Commons