Sun­shine days are here again

Alive - - Contents - by Kaushik Joshi

With a canal top so­lar pol­icy be­ing drafted in De­cem­ber 2014, here comes an­other tech­nol­ogy to re­duce car­bon foot­prints. Gu­jarat has al­ready come out

with a pi­lot project in this di­rec­tion.

In­ge­nious ways are be­ing found to mit­i­gate cli­mate change while im­prov­ing en­ergy se­cu­rity and com­pet­i­tive­ness. Newer tech­nolo­gies are be­ing tried to re­duce car­bon foot­prints by har­ness­ing so­lar and wind en­ergy.

One of them was a pi­lot project in­volv­ing a canal top so­lar power plant of the Gu­jarat State Elec­tric­ity Com­pany Ltd (GSECL) and is sit­u­ated on the Nar­mada ir­ri­ga­tion branch canal at Sanand, 24 km from Ahmed­abad.


“The idea was to re­duce evap­o­ra­tive losses of wa­ter and gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity at the same time. And this novel project could in­deed be an ef­fec­tive tool to achieve what can be called a sec­ond Green Revo­lu­tion,” said Bela Jani, ex­ec­u­tive engi­neer, GSECL.

“It’s the first of its kind in the world,” said Dr Sa­gar Agra­vat, sci­en­tist and head, R&D at the Gu­jarat En­ergy Re­search and Man­age­ment In­sti­tute which ex­e­cuted the project.

He said the project was the brain­child of Naren­dra Modi who floated the idea of us­ing a wa­ter body to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity when he was chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat.

“This project,” said Sa­gar, “does not need land at all for a so­lar plant. All it needs is a wa­ter body.” The one megawatt (MW) project is spread over 750 me­ters of canal length with sil­i­con pho­to­voltaic mod­ules.

The power plant gen­er­ates about 1.6 mil­lion units of elec­tric­ity per year, which is fed into the lo­cal elec­tric­ity grid and used by nearby towns and vil­lages.

Sa­gar also com­puted the eco­nom­ics of a canal top plant as com­pared to a ground-mounted so­lar

plant. The canal top plant scores in many ways as it saves about five acres of land.

The to­tal cost of the land would be Rs 2 crore (ap­prox). The plant life is ex­pected to be 25 years and the sav­ing is ex­pected to be Rs 8 lakh per year.

The project also earns car­bon credit of about Rs 50,000 an­nu­ally, con­sid­er­ing that there will be 0.95 met­ric tons of CO2 emis­sion re­duc­tion per 1,000 units of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated. There is also a sav­ing of 2-3 per­cent of trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion loss, which amounts to around 46,000 units of elec­tric­ity. At Rs 6 per KWH, it re­sults in a sav­ing of Rs 2,79,301 (ap­prox) per year.

UN en­dorse­ment

No won­der Ban Ki-moon, the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral while in­au­gu­rat­ing a canal-top so­lar plant in Vado­dara in Jan­uary 2015, said: “I saw more than glit­ter­ing pan­els, I saw the fu­ture of In­dia and the fu­ture of our world. I saw In­dia’s bright cre­ativ­ity, in­ge­nu­ity and cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy.”

As the so­lar mod­ule is mounted on a wa­ter body, it also saves the wa­ter from evap­o­rat­ing. In the case of this project, it comes to nine mil­lion litres an­nu­ally. This saved wa­ter can then be used for re­for­esta­tion or for drink­ing pur­poses.

Main­te­nance costs too are re­duced as so­lar pan­els on the wa­ter body also lower the rate of pho­to­syn­the­sis and check the growth of al­gae in wa­ter. Th­ese used to clog wa­ter pumps in the pump­ing sta­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion pumps.

Also, the canal top power plant does not re­quire any dis­place­ment of peo­ple. Hence, the gov­ern­ment does not have to face any has­sle of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing peo­ple.

Canal-based so­lar power projects can thus sup­ply elec­tric­ity for ir­ri­ga­tion pumps, both for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial pur­poses, as also to nearby vil­lages. “Al­though the project life of the plant is 25 years, it could be op­er­ated for 40 years as there is lit­tle wear and tear,” in­formed Sa­gar.

New pol­icy

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 1 MW canal top so­lar plant at Sanand and 10 MW plant at Ch­hani near Bar­oda, the Union Min­istry of New and Re­new­able En­ergy drafted a canal top so­lar pol­icy in De­cem­ber, 2014.

The pol­icy en­vis­ages in­stal­la­tion of 100 MW so­lar power plants dur­ing the plan pe­riod i.e. 2014-15. Out of the 100 MW projects, 50 MW will be on canal tops and the re­main­ing on canal banks.

In­ci­den­tally, the Sanand project also bagged the Prime Min­is­ter’s Award for Ex­cel­lence in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion for 2013-14. It also won the In­dia Power Award in 2012 for in­no­va­tive ini­tia­tives in the use of new and re­new­able en­ergy sources.

Mean­while, the 10 MW project in Bar­oda is spread over 3.6 km of the branch canal of the Sar­dar Sarovar Project with 35,000 so­lar pan­els. The power gen­er­ated is fed into the state grid and also used for run­ning pump­ing sta­tions. The project has saved on 16 hectares of land and will po­ten­tially pre­vent 90 mil­lion litres of wa­ter from evap­o­rat­ing each year.

De­plet­ing sources of fos­sil fu­els re­quire that we strike a new deal to en­sure en­ergy se­cu­rity. What could be more re­ward­ing than tap­ping re­new­able sources to un­leash an­other Green Revo­lu­tion?

PM Modi at the canal site.

Dr Sa­gar Agra­vat.

Mr. Gu­rudeep Singh re­ceiv­ing award from the PM.

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