India seems to be planning to significantly change the dynamics of its National Solar Mission, as it has proposed to add 20 GW through ultra mega solar power projects of 500 MW capacity or more.
The new Indian government has shown increased interest in implementation of ultra mega solar power projects especially since its leader, Mr Narendra Modi, pioneered the successful operation of India’s largest solar park in Gujarat.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy recently issued a proposal to implement 25 ultra mega solar power projects with capacities between 500 MW and 1,000 MW. The projects will be set up over a period of five years. Small solar parks of 100 MW each would be considered for small states. The government may consider solar parks of more than 1,000 MW capacity under special circumstances. The government itself has proposed four such projects with up to 4,000 MW capacity and made Rs 100 crore provision for them in this financial year.
The state and central governments will have several responsibilities to make such projects a reality. The state governments and authorities would be responsible for land acquisition, preparation, road and transmission connectivity and implementation of flood mitigation measures. This would significantly drive down the implementation time and cost of the project.
The central government would provide financial assistance to solar parks. About $41,000 would be offered for the preparation of detailed project report while about $33,000 would be offered on per MW basis. The government estimates that the total financial assistance would be around $670 million for 20 GW capacity.
Interestingly, the state governments and authorities would not be obligated to purchase electricity from these solar parks. The project developers would be free to supply power to whomever they want and whatever price they can negotiate. This could be a real game changer as it could attract several project developers. State authorities would be required to purchase at least 20% of the power generated from the solar parks.
Rapidly falling capital cost of solar power projects, availability of vast swaths of land, a substantial gap in supply and demand, and ignorance towards rooftop solar power projects among property owners makes ultra mega solar power projects a highly attractive proposition in India.
Indian regulators have already implemented regulations that require solar power projects to predict the expected power generation over a period of time. Combined with the ambitious program to set up a country-wide dedicated transmission network for power from renewable energy projects, the ultra mega solar power projects can play a critical role in strengthening the Indian power sector.
Image Credit: Gujarat Power Corporation Limited