Intersolar India: ‘Solar zones’, floating PV and ‘world’s largest’ projects due for India

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MNRE joint secretary announced several new initiatives including 'solar zones' and floating solar. Credit: Intersolar

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has written to state governments instructing them to set up new 'solar zones' to encourage private sector development of large-scale PV projects.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that next year some capacity is expected to be commissioned for four Indian solar projects, which could become the four largest in the world when fully built.

Tarun Kapoor, MNRE joint secretary, told delegates at Intersolar India that state governments are already offering to take up the new prospect of the so-called solar zones, which will be even larger than the mega solar parks conceived by the MNRE.

Unlike with the solar parks, the government will not purchase land for the solar zones. However, the land areas will be far larger and the government will acquire transmission facilities and provide certain infrastructure facilities such as roads and water. While land acquisition will be left to PV developers, MNRE will provide information on where government and private land is available.

Kapoor said there will be at least three or four solar zones and they will be announced within the next two months.

Meanwhile, also at Intersolar India, the energy minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh, Ranjendra Shukla, announced the tendering schedule for the 750MW Rewa solar park, located by the small town of Rewa, which is divided into three 250MW plants.

Himanshu Joshi, executive engineer of the New and Renewable Energy Office of Madhya Pradesh told PV Tech that tenders are coming up at the end of this month, with final bids in February next year and winners to be announced in March. He expects full commissioning in 2017.

Joshi said the old problem of off-taking the energy and finding a purchaser remains the biggest challenge.

Madhya Pradesh already has 535MW capacity with several solar projects, but with Rewa it is likely to hold the biggest solar park in the world once complete.

However, Kapoor admitted earlier that land prices in solar parks had not been as low as expected, such as with the coutry's first attempt in Gujarat with the Charanka solar park.

He said: “Charanka park is still not full as the land price got higher.”

He added that the land price went up because the government has to pay a much higher compensation when it goes to acquire land, however, there is an advantage with solar parks in that “huge chunks of land are [made] absolutely clear with no litigation”.

Citing one 1.5GW park and two 1GW parks in Andhra Pradesh as well as a 2GW park in Karnataka, among others, Kapoor claimed: “By next year I expect at least four or five single location installations, which will be the biggest in the world. There will be commissioned capacity in these parks by next year.

“I don’t think any country is doing single location projects at this scale.”

MNRE is now due to sanction another 1.5GW of solar parks in order to prepare to reach its target of 20GW of parks.

Ved Tiwari, managing director India operations for global PV developer SunEdison, said: “Land is a controversial subject in the country. We require a simple land acquisition process and solar parks is one of the initiatives.”

Kapoor also updated on India's canal top and canal bank solar installations where a total of 100MW has been commissioned including a 10MW project in Gujarat.

He also announced that MNRE is now looking at floating solar on reservoirs. The ministry has prepared a plan and calculated that using just 1% of the surface area of India’s reservoirs is enough for 10GW of solar.

Kapoor added: “There is also a lot of waste land available around these reservoirs so that is another big potential area. Floating solar on these reservoirs is the next thing we are going to try out.”

This week PV Tech reported that MNRE is about to send a revision of the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) to the Union Cabinet, and it is to raise the subsidy for rooftop solar back to 30%.

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