By 2022, India aims to install 175 GW Renewable Energy (RE) capacity. Our analysis reveals that this will need close to 12.5 million hectares of land – an area equal to the size of Telangana or the nation of Austria. If India advances RE with the singular aim of maximizing resource potential, this could threaten more than 1 million hectares of forest land and 5 million hectares of agricultural land by conversion.

But there is good news! Our analysis also shows that India has 12 times the land needed to achieve solar and wind goals by using degraded lands with low social or ecological values. With careful planning, India can avoid land conflicts that risk investment in RE and slow its expansion, which also containing adverse impacts on people and biodiversity.

To support India’s efforts to sustainably meet its RE goals, we have partnered with the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) and Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) to enhance a decision-support tool – DARPAN – already being used by planners to site RE projects, by adding socio-ecological criteria to the selection of RE sites. This will enable planners to avoid lands with high conservation and social values when setting up RE projects.

Join us in building an India powered by clean energy and endowed with natural places, thriving biodiversity and people. This online tool can be used by anyone setting up or funding renewable energy projects. We are calling upon energy regulators, developers and independent power purchasers, funding institutions and other relevant stakeholders to use this science to site RE projects sustainably.

We envision that India rapidly transitions to a low carbon economy by using science-based tools that help de-risk renewable energy projects by proactively siting them in places with low socio-ecological values.