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.
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!