India Plans World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Project (50 MW)

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Gujarat canal-top solar power plant

After canal-top solar power projects, India is planning to install the world’s largest floating solar power project.

India’s leading hydro power generator National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) is planning to set up a 50 MW solar photovoltaic project over the water bodies in the southern state of Kerala. Renewable Energy College will provide assistance to the company for implementing the project.

Under the contract with NHPC, Renewable Energy College will provide technical know-how and assist in the installation of the proposed floating solar power plant. The approximate cost of the project would be about $64-72 million. The equipment required for the construction of the project will also be sourced by the College.

This floating solar power plant technology was developed last year by a team led by SP Gon Choudhury, Chairman of the Renewable Energy College. With the total estimated cost of Rs 35 lakh ($63,600), the first pilot project is scheduled to be commissioned this year in October at a lake in the outskirts of Kolkata in West Bengal. The funding for the pilot project was provided by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

Solar panels will be installed on floating platforms which will be anchored firmly to avoid undulation of the panels around the surface of the water. Capital cost for this floating installation is approximately $1.18 Million per MW with power generation cost of Rs 7 ($0.13) per unit. These projects may also qualify for subsidies granted by the state and central government as part of their solar policies.

This technology is expected to offer more generation yield compared to the solar panels installed on the surface. Project developers would see substantial savings on project cost as the cost to acquire or lease land and cost of land reclamation would not be a factor.

The ecology of the water body is not likely to be affected much and it will also reduce evaporation, thus helping preserve water levels during extreme summer. Solar panels installed on land, face reduction of yield as the ground heats up. When such panels are installed on a floating platform, the heating problem is solved to a great extent.

“We have also been approached by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in Orissa and the Kerala Airport Authority for setting up similar facilities there. While the Chilika lake has an area of over 1,100 square km, the Airport in Kerala has a huge water body where such facility can be set up. Such panels could also be installed on water reservoirs of dams”, said SP Gon Choudhury, chairman of the Renewable Energy College.

When the project by NHPC is commissioned it would replace a project in Japan as the world’s largest floating solar power plant. Last year in July 2013, West Holdings Group had commissioned 1.2 MW floating solar power plant over a reservoir in Okegawa City, Saitama Prefecture in Japan. Approximately 4,500 floating solar panels were installed on a surface area of about 12,400 square meters of the 30,000 square meters reservoir.

Title Image Credit: Gujarat canal-top solar power project / Credit: Hitesh vip | CC BY-SA 3.0

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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

Mridul Chadha has 425 posts and counting. See all posts by Mridul Chadha

5 thoughts on “India Plans World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Project (50 MW)

  • The Kolkata wetlands (link) are famous as the natural sewage treatment system of the metropolis. So they are now adding solar power to this and fish farming. Talk about multitasking!

    Indians can now instal floating utility solar for $1.2 a watt. A pity the technology seems to be limited for now to freshwater. But ruggedized it might be conceivable in sheltered marine environments like fjords and atoll lagoons. In Galicia mussels and scallops are farmed by hanging ropes from rafts, so adding solar might be doable.

  • In India Plans are different from execution. As you yourself mentioned Canal top solar power project of 1 MW.What is the cost comparison of this canal top solar project with 1 MW ground solar project? Efficiency wise solar PV is far below wind and mini/micro hydro and biomass/biogas power because of low solar cell efficiency.On the other hand India can go in a big way for biofuel/biogas power from care free growth regenerative CAM plants like Agave ,Opuntia which can be grown in millions of hectares of waste lands. Mexico is Pioneer in this.
    Dr A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Renewable Energy Expert

  • When it comes to wind “small isn’t beautiful”.

    To get most out of ones wind rupees the turbine needs to be up in 80+ meter wind and the blades (swept area) needs to be immense.

    Plus, the wind rigs would partially shade the solar panels.

    Tidal generation isn’t yet cost effective. It’s progressing, but as far as I know, does not produce affordable electricity. (It might where tides are especially strong.)

    There might be some good tidal potential around the Kochi area or similar places where lots of tidal water flows through relatively tight quarters.

  • Good to engage in R&D.. Floating plants are CSP, a high end tech which may end up in big problems in course of time. Learn from the link Claims of promoters are to be analysed in detail.

    Read a concept paper ttp:// Read an informative article dated 1.1.2013 by Mr.Sonal Patel Reproduce here his statement “Other players include French company Sky Earth, which has operated a pilot project in the south of France since February 2011 and is now DEVELOPING 12-MW and 4-MW projects in that region.

    Associated drawbacks of floating solar plants have also already been established. Aside from cumbersome maintenance and repair, concerns have been voiced about solar energy concentration levels on a rocking platform. Then there are ecological and cost concerns.”

    Read a report from Japan 11.7.2013

    Report from Singapore 8.8.2013

    Small size R&D plants could have been monitored for a few years for satisfactory operation before venturing into large size plants. Let not India jump into untested technology and provide chance to perpetuate scams.

  • When there was acute scarcity of capital in India for various infrastructure projects and when the interest rate on capital was high at 12 percent, investing in solar power was like throwing all reasons to the wind . 1. The capital cost at $1.18 million per MW assumed is low; leaving that aside, at the ruling exchange rate of Rs 61 per USD, the capital cost comes to Rs 72 million per MW, or Rs 3600 million for A 50 MW plant. Taking the interest cost at 12 percent, depreciation 5 pc and operation and maintenance cost at 2 pc, the total capital servicing charges would have amounted to Rs 684 million p. a without considering any subsidy or tax break. As the funds had other uses it was necessary to take its opportunity cost of capital viz, the ruling rate of interest, in order to evaluate the project. 2. The Capacity Utilisation Factor (CUF) in solar PV plants was very low, usually not more than 12 percent the world over. Even assuming a higher CUF of 15 percent, a plant of 50 MW can at best generate 66 million units per annum. That takes the cost of generation to Rs 10.40 per unit. Therefore, the claim that it would cost only Rs 7 per kwh was an understatement. 3. The solar PV plants so far put up in the country have cost Rs 150 million per MW. The latest cost estimates however, was lower at Rs 100 million per MW. As the capital cost for a floating plant was likely to be higher than a land based one, the true cost of generation per KWH was likely to be in the range of Rs 12-14 per KWH before considering any subsidy. 4. The main drawback of a solar PV plant was that it cannot generate power when it was needed most viz, during the period 6 PM TO 10 PM when the demand peaked; also it could not generate in the night or on cloudy days. So regardless of the solar PV capacity installed, there cannot be any reduction to the investment in the conventional power capacity. Not only that the thermal plants will have to be kept always in readiness to be able to come on line when the sun went into hiding. Consequently even during the periods the solar plant operated, all expenses in a conventional plant, except for the cost of fuel, will have to be incurred. Therefore, as against a saving of Rs 2 as cost of fuel in a conventional plant, an expenditure of Rs 12 will have to be spent for every KWH of solar power generated. This fact was invariably hidden by the solar lobby. 5. As the capital cost of solar plants was falling by the year, the more one delays putting up a plant the better. 6. Germany has the largest solar PV capacity some 36000 MW is reeling under the high price of energy when compared to the rest in EU which itself was more expensive than the US. It would therefore be wise for India to wait for some more years during which period, the available capital could be best used for other more essential one like, reducing high losses in power transmission, roads, railways, port etc all of which want more capital.

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