Agriculture 2 MW solar PV project in Punjab by Azure Power

Published on August 27th, 2014 | by Mridul Chadha


Indian State Of Punjab Plans To Add 2,000 MW Solar Power Capacity

August 27th, 2014 by  

2 MW solar PV project in Punjab by Azure Power

2 MW solar PV project in Punjab at Awan, Punjab | Source: Azure Power

Indian states seem to have locked themselves in a race to install large capacities of solar power projects. Many states already had ambitious solar power policies before the new BJP-led government came to power, but a number of other states have also joined the bandwagon with plans to install thousands of megawatts of solar power capacity.

The northern state of Punjab, currently ruled by a party that is also an ally to the central government, has announced plans to set up 2,000 MW of solar power capacity, and asked the central government to help it achieve the target.

The need to add 2,000 MW capacity stems from the fact that the state has power demand of 8,600 MW, and has an installed capacity of 2,600 MW. The state utility faced severe power shortage during the summers due to high temperatures and low rainfall. Lower than usual rainfall also meant less generation from hydro power projects, one of the leading power sources for the state. The state will see three thermal power projects commissioned over the next few years, but even the existing thermal power projects in the state are struggling to procure adequate coal supplies, and are operating at levels way below their ideal plant load factor.

The state government is looking for a long-term solution to the power problem through solar power projects. Last year, the state government auctioned 250 MW of solar photovoltaic power capacity. 200 MW of this was in the form of utility-scale projects which were won by some of the leading solar power project developers in the county, while the balance 50 MW were small-scale projects ranging between 1 and 4 MW capacity each. This represents up to $330 million of investment.

Several Indian states are planning to set up solar PV projects with capacities of up to 4,000 MW. However, such a large-scale project may not be possible in an agricultural state like Punjab. India has had a history of socioeconomic problems when it comes to land procurement from farmers. The state and the central governments would look to avoid such problems.

The state government is also planning to set up 100 MW of rooftop solar power projects on all government buildings, and to install 10,000 solar-powered irrigation pumps. The central government, in its recent budget, has announced a funding of about $17 million for such pumps; the Punjab government wants a share in that funding.

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About the Author

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.

  • Lakshya Singhal

    Seems a good idea for Punjab. Solar power generation once established will be a very reliable source of energy at least in countries like India where we get abundant of solar energy. To make the installation easy and cost-effective, help can always be taken from companies like RaysExpert.

  • JamesWimberley

    The photo shows a project where the land has effectively been sterilised by myopic design. I’ve seen other photos of installations in India where the mounts were higher and further apart, allowing planting. In Britain, solar farms on rural land routinely allow sheep grazing underneath. Shade is actually useful to farmers in hot, dry countries. Cleaning water runoff can supply plants.

    • Offgridman

      Actually this looks like many pictures and videos that I have seen of India where nothing was growing in the first place, just that the terrain was flattened out to ease the placing of the panels.
      There have been many references including on this site about the difficulty of placing solar farms in India due to the prior claims by farmers on fertile land.
      Yet while there are many barren areas, power sources installed there end up being far from any of the demand or the infrastructure needed to supply that demand.
      I think that maybe you are making a mistake in equating the open green areas of Great Britain where it is possible to do farming to the open barren areas of India where solar could be installed with no conflict with farming, but are to far from where the energy is needed to be economically viable.

      • JamesWimberley

        Is it really the case that rural India is divided entirely into intensively cultivated and irrigated farmland – where solar would conflict with farming – and barren deserts? The Deccan is a dry plateau. Wheat is basically a dry land crop.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Looking out the train window on a number of trips through India I’ve seen a lot of land that I’d describe as desert scrub. Fit for nothing much but goat grazing without the addition of irrigation. I simply can’t see India having any shortage of land for solar.

          I can see a system where a poor land owner who scrapes out a living by raising a few goats could do quite well for themselves by leasing out some land for solar.

          Put the panels up enough to work under them. Put a fence around the solar field. Stick in a bore tube (the solar farm will need some water anyway). Let the landowner raise some veg in the partial shade, producing for his/her family and some to sell. The unused plant parts would likely provide much more food for the goats than would be lost by removing a few acres of thorny scrub.

          • Ronald Brakels

            In Gujarat there is high salinity ground water all the way from the Gulf of Khambhat (Mortal Khambhat!) into Pakistan. And where it’s not actually sea water ground water tends to be in a bad state. So while a bore may not be a practical option, in areas like Gujarat solar panels increase water availability by keeping the ground shaded which reduces evaporation. It’s like how grass grows higher on the shady side of a house, in Australia at least. And dew collection from solar panels is a potential source of water.

            But while it should be simple to rent out the land to an enterprising farming family or clan, my guess is they will keep doing what they’re currently doing. The people at the top tend not to concern themselves about such minor matters and the people in the middle or bottom of an organisation who might see the advantages don’t have the power to do anything about it. And this tends to happen in all countries, just some have it worse than others. But who knows? Maybe Modi or Kareena Kapoor will say, “Do this,” and it will take off.

    • Zer0Sum

      I reckon you could grow a whole host of edible plants under and around those panels in the photos.

      Potatoes, carrots, etc.. even watermelons and strawberries would thrive with the right care.

      Looks like an opportunity ripe for the picking to me.

  • DGW

    Good news for India and world climate.
    What will happen with all the millions of solar panels that eventually wear out? Can the silicon and parts be recycled?

    • Offgridman

      “Can the silicon and parts be recycled?”
      Quite easily as the majority of parts, various metals and glass are already part of our recycling stream, and methodology is likely to be developed for the other rare minerals that are valuable.
      However some of the latest studies show that the more recent panels will still be performing at 80-90% or higher of original peak power at 100 years of use.
      Will it be economically feasible to take these down and totally replace with the improved panels at that point? Or will it just be cheaper to add in some newer panels to make up for the degradation in production. We will just have to wait and see what the situation looks like at that time.
      Maybe with continuing efficiency measures, and if we reach peak population through education and improved medical care for everyone it is possible that the worlds energy needs will also peak and maybe start to fall.

    • JamesWimberley

      They last too long (40 years) for the problem to have been seriously studied, I suppose. Silicon is a superabundant element, in the form of sand, so recycling it is probably not worthwhile. All the initial cost is in the purification, which you would have to redo. The aluminium or steel mounts, copper cables, and silver connectors will presumably be recycled without problems.

      • just_jim

        Turning Si02 to Si is energy intensive, on the same order of energy as refining aluminum. The electricity to refine it is a small fraction of the total cost of making solar cells, but may still be as recyclable as aluminum cans.

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