The month of August marks a renewable energy milestone for India as an industrial park in Neemrana is supplied electricity entirely from a captive solar power plant
In a new development, an industrial hub of precision tools manufacturers in Rajasthan is now being powered solely through a dedicated solar park that uses the latest in solar power technology and a smart grid.
Neemrana’s 6 MW model solar power project, built by the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), comprises a 5MW solar power plant, which uses thin film technology and feeds power directly to the state grid and a 1 MW plant that uses poly-crystalline technology with 2MW diesel generators integrated with a Smart Micro Grid feeding power to the Japanese industrial consumers at the Japanese zone.
Inaugurated on August 11, the project is being implemented in partnership with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Government of Japan. The solar panels and other equipment such as inverters, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system have been procured from Japanese companies free of cost.
“With this system of a dedicated, uninterrupted energy in place, we are confident to repeat this model at other places along the corridor,” Akhilesh Kumar Sharma, CEO and MD of DMICDC, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.
The plant is located at the Japanese Zone of the Nemaha Industrial Park (NIP), part of the Khushkhera-Bhiwadi-Neemrana Investment Region, one of the eight industrial nodes being developed as part of the phase I of the DMICDC. The land has been given by Rajasthan government on a long lease. The place is about 130 km from New Delhi, a smooth road journey for about 2.5 hours away on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway.
“Unstable power supply is still one of the biggest investment barriers in India. This project showcases how Japanese technology can help India overcome that (problem),” Kenji Hiramatsu, Japan’s Ambassador to India, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “There are 46 Japanese companies allocated space in this Japanese Zone. They need a stable source of energy as they are into manufacturing precision parts. Solar power is very important source to have that kind of stable supply. Plus, we wanted to demonstrate our technology.”
India’s solar aim
Ahead of the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, India promised a significant change in its energy mix. Upping its solar power targets and reducing emphasis on fossil fuels, India pledged to increase its renewable energy target to a massive 175 GW, of which solar energy is expected to rise to 100 GW by the year 2022. This was stated in its action plan to combat climate change, which is also known as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which has been submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
India’s total installed capacity on July 31 was 330 GW, according to Power Ministry data. Of this, 58,303 MW came from renewable energy sources. The cumulative solar energy capacity installed on July 31 was 13.6 GW, up from 3.7 GW at the end of 2014-15, Energy Minister Piyush Goyal told Parliament on August 10.
In a desert state such as Rajasthan, there are two issues that have been associated with solar power — use of groundwater, and the amount and quality of solar power available over the grid.
The Central Electricity Authority’s Load Generation Balance report for 2017 shows Rajasthan’s actual power supply position in terms of energy requirement vis-à-vis availability during 2016-17 as minus 0.6, signifying a deficit. As against the requirement of 67,838 million units, the availability was 67,417 MU. According to Census 2011, data for Alwar district shows that Neemrana town is a small place that is home to just about 7,000 people. The power requirement of the town is a fraction of the massive consumption by the industrial area across the road.
But, citing reasons of the already signed power purchase agreement with NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd (NVVN), the only government company in the power sector engaged in the business of power trading, the authorities said the new solar plant was designed and built keeping in mind the industry’s requirement.
“Every project is conceived with a particular objective. One need not link this directly with benefits to the villagers. One, it is a very small plant. Two, this 1 MW is exclusively meant for the industry. And the 5 MW component has a PPA with the state agency and feeds to the grid,” Rajiv Swaroop, Additional Secretary, Industries, Government of Rajasthan, who is also chairperson of Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO), told indiaclimatedialogue.net.
Prafulla Pathak, advisor and immediate past secretary general of Solar Energy Society of India (SESI), praised the concept of dedicated power plant for industry but also said: “When they are feeding to the grid, then of course, they have to follow the grid code (Indian Electricity Grid Code). But when there is a unit directly feeding to the industry, the town’s requirement could have been included at the time of PPA. This could at least be done in future as part of CSR initiative.”
If power availability is not an issue, water availability is. In fact, as per Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Neemrana and neighbouring Behror administrative blocks are the only two marked as overexploited in Alwar district. The CGWB’s information booklet for groundwater about Alwar district says, “In major parts of the district, depth to water level varied from 10 to 40 metres below ground level.” The booklet also talks about the poor quality of water in Neemrana block.
Incidentally, both the Ministry of Renewable Energy and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change have clarified that even when provisions of environmental impact assessment would not be applicable for solar power plants, the development of solar power plants shall attract the provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and also the similar law for air.
The 5MW plant is spread over 26 acres and has some 34,000 panels. It needs approximately 200,000 litres water per month to clean the panels. The solar power plants have yet another first where the entire ground below the panels is covered with grass. The idea is to substantially lessen flying dust and hence the water requirement for cleaning.
But revenue authorities believe it is too soon for any action. “The Central Ground Water Authority gives permission (for borewells) based on certain technical parametres and on the condition of ground water recharge. If they (plant management) illegally extract (groundwater), we will take action,” Alwar’s district collector Rajan Vishal told indiaclimatedialogue.net.
Environmentalists, of course, express caution. “If such plants are being commissioned for consumption entirely by private industry, then it is imperative for the authorities to factor in the dark zones earmarked by the ground water board. Inclusion of adequate clauses for preventive and punitive measures are a must,” said Ajay Kumar Jha of Beyond Copenhagen, a coalition of organisations and networks working on environmental and climate justice along with sustainable development.