The government of India has published a draft plan proposing the development of 20GW in ‘ultra mega’ solar power plants over the next five years.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has created the 20GW draft proposal to harness the country’s vast solar energy potential to meet the energy demands of India’s growing population and economy.

The draft proposes 25 ultra mega solar power parks to be developed over the next five years, all 500MW-1GW in size, to total 20GW.

MNRE is to collaborate with state governments and with its solar division, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), to coordinate developments and organise funds.

The development and management of the proposed solar parks is to be handled jointly by SECI and state governments, and any private developers who team up with state governments.

State government is encouraged to provide incentives for private developers.

Any private developer who teams up with state government can only own 49% of a development; at least 51% must belong to state governments.  

Land for the developments is expected to be low-cost private land, or existing government land. Priority will be given to waste and non agricultural land, with 5 acres to be allocated to every megawatt developed. Land should have high solar radiation, good grid access and have water availability.

MNRE has budgeted more than INR4,000 crore (US$655 million) to develop the 20GW of ultra mega solar power plants.

Once MNRE approves a solar power park proposal from state governments, they can apply for a grant of INR25 lakhs (US$40,000).

Developers can also apply for another grant of INR20 lakhs (US$33,000) per megawatt, or 30% of project costs, whichever is lower.

MNRE is also to assist in matching developers to other loan providers for the development of the solar power plants.

Power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the developments can be made under the JNNSM national solar mission tenders or state policies, or energy can be sold to third parties.

State governments must purchase 20% of energy generated through DISCOMS, unless grid connectivity is ensured – states agreeing to purchase higher percentages will be given preference.

The developments are also allowed to be hybrid renewable energy developments and can also include solar manufacturing facilities.

The draft scheme was published on 8 September, following its distribution on 1 August to energy secretaries and energy departments of state for feedback.

The 590MW ‘Charanka Solar Park’ in Gujarat and the ‘Bhadla Solar Park’ development in Rajasthan are to be used as models for the ultra mega solar power developments.

The Charanka Solar Park already has 224MW commissioned by 20 developers.

The draft states the solar developments will help states to save on expensive fossil fuel power plants of equivalent capacity.

The developments will also help states to meet renewable energy targets, encourage investment and help empower local communities, the draft states. 

The 20GW solar draft appears to be acting on newly elected prime minister and solar advocate Narendra Modi’s solar ambitions and election promises for solar further solar development in India.