Clean Power Gujarat canal-top solar power plant

Published on December 20th, 2014 | by Smiti


India Plans 100 MW Solar Power Capacity To Cover Canals

December 20th, 2014 by  

Initiatives taken by the state of Gujarat in the renewable energy sector are increasingly getting absorbed in the national renewable energy policy of India.

Gujarat canal-top solar power plant

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued guidelines to set up 100 MW solar power capacity (PDF) over and along the canals in the country. The program will see solar photovoltaic power projects of capacity 1 to 10 MW installed over canals and on the banks of the canals in India.

The total cost of the program will be around $160 million, out of which about $38 million will be provided as financial assistance by the central government. All of the projects will be required to be commissioned within a span of three years. 50 MW of capacity will be set up to cover the canals while 50 MW of capacity will be set up along the banks of the canals.

Ever since the success of a 1 MW canal-top solar PV project in Gujarat, several state governments have announced plans to set up such projects. Gujarat itself is working to expand that project to a capacity of 10 MW.

The Punjab government recently announced that it will cover its canal network with 1 GW of solar PV power systems. The government has signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin for nanotechnology-based mounting structures for the solar PV modules. Damodar Valley Corporation also announced its plans to cover 2,500 kilometres of irrigation canals with 1 GW of solar power plants in the eastern part of India.

Gujarat has been a pioneer is developing solar power infrastructure in India. To date, the state leads all others in terms of installed solar power capacity. Another initiative implemented successfully by the state government is large-scale solar parks. The Charanka Solar Park is the largest in Asia, with a planned capacity of 590 MW, out of which about 230 MW has been commissioned. The central government now plans to replicate this model across several states at an even larger scale. A total of 20 GW of capacity addition is planned through ultra mega solar power projects over the next five years.

Image Credit: Hitesh vip | CC BY-SA 3.0

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About the Author

works as a senior solar engineer at a reputed engineering and management consultancy. She has conducted due diligence of several solar PV projects in India and Southeast Asia. She has keen interest in renewable energy, green buildings, environmental sustainability, and biofuels. She currently resides in New Delhi, India.

  • nrmantena

    This is another head-in-the-sky idea from the brainless politicians and bureaucrats.
    First of all, it is much cheaper to install and maintain white plastic sheets over the
    water surface to minimize evaporation. But, there is a much bigger problem:
    Vandalism and complete lack of social responsibility that includes decent work ethics. It is almost impossible to prevent vandalism from public property in India

  • David in Bushwick

    All that structural steel…
    Put them on the roof.

    • Michael G

      It’s part of an “all-of-the-above” strategy.

      Advantages are decreasing evaporation, central location for maintenance, you’ve got the right of way already, canals are unlikely to be modified while buildings are likely to be torn down for new buildings as India modernizes.

      • Larmion

        Evaporation could be reduced through a dirt cheap plastic film. Chances are that would still be a lot cheaper than installing panels on them.

        The idea that buildings are less likely to be torn down/changed than canals is also false. Most Indian canals are irrigation canals that are frequently enlarged, moved or abandoned as land use and cropping schemes change. Oh, and they need dredging and/or bank repairs every now and then.

        The central location is the strongest argument, but that can be achieved through solar farms on brown field sites, desert areas or other unused land much more cheaply.

        Last time I checked, India was still in the process of providing its residents with toilets. To waste money on expensive constructions when they are not strictly necessary is criminal in that case.

        • JamesWimberley

          Deserts are rarely centres of population.

          You are too quick to accuse Indians of not knowing what they are doing. I’ve snarked myself about the ultramegaprojects, but there are Indian voices against them too (for instance, the state government of Rajasthan), as well as Bolinger’s data on the absence of economies of scale.

          • Larmion

            While few Indian population centres are close to deserts in the strictest sense like the Thar desert, many are close to areas too arid/polluted/infertile to sustain highly productive agriculture.

            But perhaps more importantly, the PDF document proposes a cost of up to 3 crore/MW support for canaltop versus up to 1,5 crore/MW for canal bank projects.

            That shows that a canaltop projects is roughly twice as costly as a land based project in the exact same location. Even if a hypothetical land based farm where rather remote, I doubt connecting it to centres of demand would double its cost.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            How would stop algae, mold, and other wild life from living on these solar panels and in the structure?

          • Larmion

            Mold would be easy. Given those tend to grow primarily on decaying organic matter or as predators in soils, solar panels wouldn’t be a good habitat for them. And most species dislike full sun as they’re rather UV sensitive.

            Algae need either something to float on if they’re free living or a porous substrate if they’re the multicellular kind.

            Lichens could presumably grow on the panels, but I doubt they’d do well in a hot and dry environment.

        • madflower

          Dirt cheap plastic film would trap heat in the canal causing more evaporation. doh. The whole idea to reduce evaportation is pretty smart.

          A toilet does you no good if you don’t have any water left to flush it with. In fact they get pretty stinky.

          • Larmion

            No, not ‘doh’. The canal would indeed heat up, water would evaporate but couldn’t escape except through negligible diffusion. After as little as an hour or so, the air inside the canal would become saturated and evaporation would stop entirely. At night or during cool spells, most of the water would condensate and return to the canal. Rinse, repeat.

            The cheap plastic film method has been used for well over a hundred years now in the west, with excellent results.

          • Mike333

            Plastic covers? Are you talking about a 2 year solution?

          • Larmion

            Oh, goodness no. Or rather, maybe.

            The simplest sprayable monolayers would have a lifespan in that range (but they’re dirt cheap anyway). For plastic or cloth covers, lifespans in the 10-30 year range are common, with costs in the range of 250 USD per megalitre saved as per Australian government research.

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