Sunshine days are here again
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.
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.
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.