Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formally inaugurated the country’s ultra mega Rewa solar park, a 750 megawatt capacity plant situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh, on the 10th of July 2020. The Prime Minster inaugurated the solar park via video conferencing and dedicated the plant to the nation.
The solar park is spread over an area of 1,590 hectares and is situated in the Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the largest single-site solar power plants in the country. The solar park consists of three units of 250 MW each; all of them are operational. The park was fully commissioned in December 2019.
Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) implemented the plant, which is a joint venture of Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (MPUVN) and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).
The electricity generated from the park is being utilized by two different off-takers, Power Management Company of Madhya Pradesh (MPPMCL) and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). The bulk of the power, 76%, is procured by MPPMCL and the balance of 24% is procured by DMRC. MPPMCL is the holding company of the three distribution utilities in the state and it purchases power for all the discoms.
The central government provided financial assistance of US$18.4 million to RUMSL for the development of this solar park. The solar park is expected to curtail carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 million tonnes annually and result in major financial savings for consumers.
A Landmark Project
The reverse auction bidding process was tried for the first time in India with this project. Mahindra Renewables, ACME Solar Holdings, and Solengeri Power emerged as the winners of the bidding and were mandated to build 250 MW each at tariffs of Rs 2.979/kWh (3.97 US¢/kWh) , Rs 2.970/kWh (3.96 US¢/kWh), and Rs 2.974/kWh (3.965 US¢/kWh), respectively, for the first year.
This is the country’s first solar project to receive funding from World Bank under its Clean Technology Fund (CTF). The funding was provided at a rate of 0.25% for a 40-year period and this has enabled the plant to achieve very low solar power park charges and tariffs compared to the other projects of similar capacities.
It is the first solar project in India which is supplying power to an inter-state open access consumer, i.e. DMRC. The power received from the plant is utilized for the operational as well as auxiliary requirements of the Delhi Metro. DMRC had signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in 2017 to procure 345 million kilowatt hours per year from the Rewa solar plant at a tariff of Rs 2.97 (US¢3.95)per kilowatt hour in the first year and a levelized tariff of Rs 3.30 (US¢4.38) per kilowatt hour for 25 years.
This project has achieved the World Bank Group President’s award for its excellence and innovation. It has also made its presence in the Prime Minister’s “A Book of Innovation: New Beginnings.”
Ultra Mega Solar Power Plants in India
India now houses multiple ultra mega solar parks having a capacity of more than 1 GW, and two of them are the world’s largest commissioned plants. The Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan is the world’s largest with capacity of 2.2 gigawatts spread over an area of 14,000 acres.
The success of Rewa and its uniqueness with respect to supplying power to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has inspired others to contemplate similar projects. Indian Railways, for example, had reportedly considered setting up a similar solar power park in Madhya Pradesh to power its traction requirements.
Inauguration — Why Now?
As mentioned, the Rewa solar power park has been operational since December 2019. Why, then, did the government choose to ‘inaugurate’ and dedicate the solar power park to the nation now? The potential answer lies in the messaging. During his inauguration address, Prime Minister Modi emphasized self-reliance in the solar power sector. He said that India should end its dependence on imported solar power equipment. China is the largest source of solar power equipment imported into India. Given the escalated border dispute the two countries find themselves in, India has been pushing to boycott Chinese companies from major contracts in the country.
As per news reports, India is looking to replace a safeguard duty currently levied on Chinese solar imports with a basic customs duty soon. The safeguard duty is set to expire at the end of this month. There are also media reports suggesting India is looking at ways to bar Chinese companies from being part of the 7.5-gigawatt solar power park tender for the Ladakh region.