Solar power generation over Gujarat canals in India

Harnessing solar power over Gujarat canals Indian officials have developed a unique approach to solar development, building a 4 km stretch of solar panels atop a canal near the western city of Vadodara (formerly Baroda), which not only saves arable land but reduces evaporation of scarce water.

The 10-MW (megawatt) plant, apparently the first of its kind anywhere, was inaugurated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Erected over a 22 meter wide irrigation canal, the plant has 33,816 solar panels installed on a mounting over the water.

“Looking out at the canal top solar power plant, I saw more than glittering panels – I saw the future of India and the future of our world,” Ban said, adding, “I saw India’s bright creativity, ingenuity and cutting-edge technology.” The plant is a part of the massive Sardar Sarovar project, a hydropower and irrigation scheme designed to supply water to 4.5 million acres of land through canals.  

The Rs 1 billion project is financed by the State government. On a sunny day in the habitually bright western Indian State, it generates 50,000 units of power per hour.  

It is expected to produce over 16 million units in the first year.  Generation is expected to decline by 1 percent per year as the solar panels degrade. The solar photo voltaic (PV) cells produce direct current (DC) that has to be converted into alternate current (AC) for industrial and domestic consumption.

To distribute the electricity from the source, the AC also needs to be stepped up to over thousand volts by the transformer. “The Vadodara canal plant has 14 converters and  nine transformers,” said the chief engineer, Umesh Chandra Jain, who added that utilization of
solar energy can cut the use of coal, gas and other fossil fuel based power projects. “India has an advantage of going for a solar mission as the country gets 70 percent more solar radiation than any European country.   

Moreover a solar power plant can be erected very fast compare to other green power projects,” Jain said. The entire output is presently scheduled to be consumed by the Sardar Sarovar project itself, said SS Rathore, the project’s chairman cum managing director. Sardar Sarovar was created by the State government in Ahmadabad.

The generated power of the plant is now supplied to the State grid system and finally it has been used to run the irrigation pumps on the same canal, he added. Gujarat chief minister Anandi B Patel told the local media that the SSNNL was purchasing power from a different company, Gujarat Urja Vin Nigam Ltd, at the a cost of Rs 6.48  per unit, where prices were soaring annually. The new solar project is expected
to  generate power at rupees 7 per unit for a longer period.  

Ms Patel, who succeeded Modi as the Gujarat government chief last year, also pointed out that the project’s construction atop a canal means there were no land acquisition costs. It is also expected to prevent evaporation of around 90 million liters of water in a year, which is significant for the water scarcity State of India. The engineers also say the running water beneath the panels provides cooling for power generation. Modi has pledged to provide electricity to every Indian. Some 300 million people still lack electricity. He recently announced that India  would promote similar
solar projects across the  country.   

The government has also raised its solar power target from 20,000 MW to 100,000 MW  by 2022, while present Indian capacity is over 3,000 MG. According to the International Energy Agency, the solar panels have emerged as the fastest growing renewable energy technology tools across the globe in the last decade.

“The right approach to energy can drive progress on all three pillars of sustainable development: economic dynamism, social progress and environmental sustainability,” the UN chief said, adding that, “Our vision and target through the sustainable energy for all initiative is first of all to provide universal energy access to all 7 billion people in the world by 2030, and double energy efficiency, and the use of renewable energy by 2030 – doubled, in the global energy mix.”  

Ban also asked India to ‘come out with an ambitious target to cut down carbon emissions. India is identified as a major emitter of carbon to the air after the USA and China.”2015 is a historic and most important year for the humanity as it could be the time we end poverty, avoid worst impacts of climate change through sustainable development.” (Source: Hans India).


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