Govt plans to rope in 50k to man solar plants

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Updated: January 27, 2015 2:51:42 AM

Hopes that involvement of local population will help ease land acquisition

The government is betting on 50,000 youths to implement a part of its ambitious plan of achieving 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022. The nodal ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) is drafting a Cabinet note that will lay down the contours of engaging a battery of young and unemployed population in maintaining and running solar plants of 25,000 MW capacity across the country.

Government officials that FE spoke to said that the plan seeks to achieve two-pronged objective. One, the government hopes that involving local population and providing them with sustainable jobs will help ease the land acquisition process. Second, installing solar power plants around power station for local consumption will save the transmission cost and keep the tariff down.

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As the solar power plant operated at a plant load factor of about 20% as compared to thermal plants of 90%, transmission of such power over long distances bumps up the cost by over 50% and hence makes desirable to have shorter transmission lines for evacuation of power.

“The plan clearly revolves around easier land acquisition process and lower evacuation cost of solar power. While it’s easier said than done, there is potential in this route if the policy structure can convince small land owners to set up plants which will also provide jobs to family members. The people thus selected can be trained in O&M (operation and maintenance) of these plants and be made responsible for running it after installation,” said Jasmeet Khurana, senior manager (market intelligence) of renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India.

The 100 GW road map involves installation of 40 GW on rooftops, 25 GW through mega solar parks of 1GW each across the country, and 25 GW through district level solar plants for local consumption. The rest 10 GW will be achieved through a combination of measures that involves installation in Leh & Laddakh, installations along highways and canals.

“Deploying a trained solar army provides for a potentially viable component in the mix that the government is planing to achieve 100 GW,” Khurana said.

The target of 100 GW may look over-ambitious considering the country has only 3 GW of installed solar capacity at present but various studies conducted by the MNRE suggest that solar power will achieve grid parity in large parts of the country by 2020, a government official said and added that this was the right time to push for a 100 GW target.

Grid parity refers to solar power being available to buyers at the same cost as conventional power.

A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and BCG analysis on behalf of MNRE indicates that the solar power will achieve grid parity across the country by FY 18 at the rate of R5.5 per unit. The study also cites the solar power rates of sub R7 per unit discovered by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh last year, showing sharp progressive decline since 2014.

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