Solar Parks in India
The Government of India is much buoyant about meeting its 100 GW solar target and at the same time increasing viability of solar projects.
To ramp up capacity to this huge level, ground-mounted solar projects, specifically solar parks are playing a major role.
The Centre has envisaged generating 60 GW through ground mounted grid-connected solar energy systems. These systems can be placed on open land and can be more productive per panel than a rooftop solar array.
Solar power projects can be set up anywhere in the country, however the scattering of solar power projects leads to higher project cost per MW and higher transmission losses. Individual projects of smaller capacity incur significant expenses in site development, drawing separate transmission lines to nearest substation, procuring water and in creation of other necessary infrastructure. It also takes a long time for project developers to acquire land, get change of land use and various permissions, etc., which delays the project.
To overcome these challenges, the scheme for “Development of Solar Parks and Ultra-Mega Solar Power Projects” was rolled out in December 2014 with an objective to facilitate the solar project developers to set up projects in a plug-and-play model. All the states and UTs are eligible for benefits under the scheme.
The scheme aimed at reducing bottlenecks and bringing down large-scale project development costs by the government making the requisite land available to power producers, in addition to giving other infrastructure, a challenge when developing projects privately.
Considering the demand for additional solar parks from the states, the government upped the target of installed capacity in solar parks to 40 GW by March 2022 and also doubled the financial assistance to Rs. 8,100 crore. The total capacity of solar parks when operational will generate 64 billion units of electricity per year which will lead to abatement of around 55 million tonnes of CO2 per year over its life cycle.
The government has so far approved 42 solar parks with a capacity of 23,449 MW, but only 5,835 MW has been commissioned in a handful of parks.
Given the slow progress in setting up projects, achieving target seems highly unlikely. However, the country’s solar power producers are optimistic and the ministry officials too, have corroborated the same.