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Clean Power Gujarat canal-top solar power plant

Published on October 28th, 2014 | by Anand Upadhyay


India’s Largest Canal-Top Solar PV Plant To Come Online in Gujarat

October 28th, 2014 by  

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s love for solar is more than evident from the (fun) fact that he chose to lay the foundation stone for this 10 MW canal top project on 14 February 2014! Talk about SolarLove. 😀

When a 1 MW solar power plant came up on top of Narmada canal in Gujarat in 2012, it was very well received. The pilot project was developed on a 750-m stretch of the canal by Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (GSECL) with support from Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), which owns and maintains the canal network. Both are public entities.

Satellite view of 1 MW Narmada canal top solar power plant – Looks like a blue train !! (Source: Google Maps, Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.)

Two quantifiable benefits of building solar power plants on canals as against conventional ground-mounted systems were widely reported — the amount of land it would save and also the amount of water it would save, which would have otherwise been lost due to evaporation. Both excellent points.

The capacity utilization factor works out to be around 18%, which should be easily achievable in Gujarat.

The only problem with the project was its high cost. At the time, it came up it cost $2.9 million for 1 MW, about 50% more expensive than a conventional ground mounted solar plant, and was criticised by some. But then, small-scale pilot projects have always been expensive.

About a year back, Mridul reported on the intentions of the Gujarat government to develop a second 10 MW canal-top solar power plant. As per recent news, installation of this 3.5 km long solar plant has now been completed and it is expected to come online anytime. The project took about eight months for completion.

The 10 MW canal top solar power plant has been installed in the city of Vadodara, over a branch of Narmada river canal. The EPC was handled by the Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL). The total capital cost of the system has been about $15 million. MEIL will also be responsible for O&M of the solar power plant for 25 years which would cost another $1.6 million.

The plant will generate more than 16 million units a year, and will help reduce SSNNL’s dependency on state utility. The electricity generated will be used to power five pumping generators situated along Saurashtra branch canals to draw water and supply them for irrigation. It is expected that the cost of electricity would be in the region of Rs.7/kWh (about 11 cents per unit).

SSNNL also plans to build public gardens around the installation site, so that locals can relax and also be a witness to the marvels of clean energy generation!

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About the Author

is an Associate Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi) - an independent, not-for-profit research institute focused on energy, environment, and sustainable development. Anand follows the Indian solar market at @indiasolarpost. He also writes at SolarMarket.IN. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

  • Larmion

    Have studies been performed that compare the cost of floating solar panels with the cost of installing the panels on land and covering the canal with a cheap plastic film?

    The effect would be the same and my own back-of-the-envelope guesstimate suggests floating PV is the dearer of the two options.

    • CU

      If you got land for free….

      • Larmion

        You’d think that that wouldn’t be a big issue in a state with a population density of merely 300/km2 and that includes vast swathes of the Thar desert.

        • Averages are tricky to handle !!! The state is (sort of) densely populated in non-desert areas and the canal flows mainly through populated areas.

    • Covering the canal with a plastic film will not allow the water to get replenished with oxygen IMO. Just to clarify in case of any doubt, this article discusses fixed PV on top of a canal.

  • Marion Meads

    California grape growers that have large private reservoirs float their solar panels over the water to minimize evaporation while generating power and not taking up additional farm space.

    The California aqueduct system run thousands of miles plus the man-made reservoirs such as San Luis Reservoir State Recreational Area and the O’Neil Forebay below the dam would be ideal places to install solar PV. It would help reduce water evaporation. The area would be very large and it could perhaps supply significant source of renewable power for the entire state. The only potential problem would be the mal-informed environmental fanatics and the hobbyists that have been fishing the Delta-Mendota canals that are productive sports fisheries. But of course, it depends upon how the solar panels are arranged over the canals. If they are arranged to allow some sunlight and fishing in some sections, it could cater to many uses aside from delivering water to the ever thirsty southern California.

    • Omega Centauri

      What happens to floating PV if the water level drops so far it ends up on the bottom of the lake? Looking at some of Californias reservoirs, this seems like a real possibility. Does a floating solar farm need to be designed to survive being grounded?

    • Michael G

      Quite agree – good back up support.

    • Here is a closeup of the 1 MW canal top solar system, if you look at the reflection, there seems to be sufficient space for sunlight. Which I think would in any case be there to reduce shadow on the PV surface. Follow the Link –

  • Kevin McKinney

    Fun–but what does generation of “16 million units” mean?

    • … of electricity.

      • Kevin McKinney

        OK–but kilowatthours, joules, what?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I think Indians use “unit” in place of kWh.

          • Kevin McKinney

            Thanks, Bob–that’s good to know. India does have its own English vocabulary, doesn’t it? I’m starting to get a handle on that “crore” thing, though! 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            One of my favorite English words in Indian/American usage it “scheme”. For Indians the word is simply a plan, while for Americans it’s implies something less than ethical.

          • Crore is the Indian number for 10 millions

            PS: thought I’ll help you get there faster 😀

        • It is kWh. And I am sorry that it skipped my mind that kWh may not be considered as the default unit of electricity everywhere. I’ll keep this in mind for future articles!

          • Bob_Wallace

            kWh is the default unit, at least most places. People don’t talk about “units” in the West, but kWh.

          • Thanks for explaining that Bob !

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