In continuation of our series on the latest happenings in the Indian solar power sector, this month we take readers through the solar power generation capabilities of four major states in the north
By Samonway Duttagupta
In the last issue of Electronics Bazaar, we took a bird’s eye view of the solar power projects in the southern part of the country. As interesting as the revelations were, interactions with some key people in the solar industry have led to us shifting our focus up north. Hence, in continuation of the series we started last month, let’s zip through some of the northern states of the country to find out the latest happenings in the solar power sector.
The state of Rajasthan arguably has the highest number of solar power projects. As reported in the later half of 2014, the state has set itself an ambitious target of achieving a generating capacity of 25GW of solar power in the next five years. As this article goes to press, the latest solar deals that have grabbed eyeballs have been struck by biggies Adani Enterprises and Reliance Power—both for Rajasthan. Adani Enterprises signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corp Ltd (RREC) to set up India’s largest solar park (with a capacity to generate 10GW of electricity) with an investment of ` 800 to ` 900 billion. A week later, Reliance signed an MoU with the state government to develop a 6GW solar power plant with an investment of ` 500 billion.
What’s already happening
Even though many other large scale solar energy deals have been signed in Rajasthan, one needs to look at how much capacity will actually be produced in the next few years. According to a report released by the strategic consulting firm, Bridge To India, in 2014, 728MW of solar power projects were commissioned by the state. This number is already high compared to any other Indian state, but it is important to note that 440MW out of this total falls under the National Solar Mission (NSM). So, it is obvious that the state has proved to be the clear winner of projects under the NSM. Projects amounting to a further 375MW of solar power are coming up, under NSM, which is again, far more than what any other state has got.
Looking at the larger perspective, the impact has been immense. As reported by electronicsb2b.com earlier, and in another article in this issue of Electronics Bazaar, even the Ajmer railway station has turned to solar power to meet its electricity requirements. More importantly, the solar sector has been generating employment opportunities as well. According to figures released by RREC, about four people are employed to generate each megawatt of solar power.
The other state that is rapidly catching up is Haryana. Even though the numbers released by Bridge to India last year showed that the state only had a collective generating capacity of 14MW of solar power, including the commissioned and upcoming projects, the current sentiments in Haryana with regard to solar energy indicate an entirely different story. An example of the state’s new focus on solar power is its mandate, released in December 2014, that all buildings on a plot size of 418.06sq m or more must install rooftop solar power systems by September this year. The order is applicable to all kinds of buildings—public, private or commercial. The state government has also offered to provide a subsidy of 30 per cent on installation costs on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
What’s already happening
Parts of Haryana that border Rajasthan and have similar climatic conditions, with an abundant amount of sunshine, will prove to be the perfect places for setting up solar power plants. So solar installations are not only happening at the micro level, but on a larger scale as well. Besides, there are some big budget deals in the pipeline. A major solar power project that has been commissioned in the recent past is the 5MW project by Rays Power Experts.
What else can happen
In spite of the state’s immense potential in the solar power sector, Haryana still has a lot to achieve on the ground. Bridge To India reports that there’s not a single project in the state that comes under NSM. One could argue that high levels of solar irradiation and other relevant factors in Rajasthan have somehow overshadowed the potential of Haryana, but the attitude towards the solar power potential of the state is fast changing. In fact, most solar companies now believe that Haryana is a prospective market for solar energy and look forward to investing in it. This view is validated by Rahul Gupta, director, Rays Power Experts. He says, “Haryana is a strategic market for us. We are geared to make use of innovative technology and skilled manpower to execute the project on time, and deliver the best to our customers. Rays Experts is committed to aggressively expanding its business portfolio.”
It would be interesting to see how the Haryana Solar Power Policy 2014 shapes up. The policy has ambitious goals, but one has to wait and watch what really materialises on the ground.
Punjab has the second highest capacity of upcoming solar power projects. With a whopping 250MW of solar power about to hit the state, clean power from a renewable energy source is being embraced by the state in a big way. Even though there’s no NSM involved in this number, the good part is that the whole chunk falls under the state government’s own solar policy.
What’s already happening
Solar power projects amounting to a capacity of 30MW have already been commissioned in Punjab. Of these, seven projects are under NSM and 13 fall under the state’s solar policy. Punjab has been looked upon as a state with a lot of potential for solar power. The state government has inked MoUs worth Rs 135 billion in this sector. Most of the companies that plan to invest are from countries like Canada, UK and Italy, among others. This is a good sign for the state as it indicates that Punjab is being viewed as a prospective market for big global companies. Among the many Indian companies participating in Punjab’s solar power development, the Acme Group was recently in the spotlight for getting 74MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects under the Punjab State Solar PV tender for 250MW, issued by the Punjab Energy Development Agency.
What else can be done
According to reports, the state government has offered all kinds of help to those setting up solar power projects in the state. The state government’s solar policy has a provision to provide clearances for solar projects through a single window mechanism within a period of 60 days from the day of submitting the application.
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region has been the centre of attention for all solar projects in the state, till now. The main reason for this is the abundant amount of direct sunshine that this region gets. Besides, the region has vast portions of barren land, making it one of the most ideal places where solar power can be harnessed. Recognising this, the state government has announced that 111GW of solar power will be harnessed in the region. In fact, it has already signed a MoU with the Central government for the development of two mega solar power projects in the Ladakh region (2.5GW in Kargil and 5GW in Leh).
What needs to be seen is how much of this potential is exploited by companies and the state government through a fruitful partnership. As compared to the other states, Jammu and Kashmir hasn’t really seen a lot happening on the ground. But a lot is expected to happen in the future because it’s the state with the highest solar power potential in the country.