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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sustainable power: India makes a beginning

In perhaps the first significant climate responsive project in South Asia, an abandoned thermal power plant has been converted into a mega solar power generating station. It’s quite likely the world’s only high carbon power unit being replaced by a zero-carbon one. It is poised to give a huge fillip to India’s renewable energy ambitions and marks the culmination of “solar man’’ S P Gon Chaudhuri’s dream. Six years ago, he won the Ashden award, popularly known as the Green Oscar.

The 2-MW project, under the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC), is the first in solar sphere to cross the megawatt threshold. It has already catalysed commercial interest in solar power that has been shunned by private companies due to high capital investment and longer break-even period. At present, capital investment in a solar plant is Rs 15-18 crore per mega watt—four times that of thermal at Rs 4-5 crore/MW. The cost is expected to reduce by half and efficiency double when nanotechnology is integrated in solar cells in about five years.

The project, located in Jamuria, 20 km from Asansol and 210 km from Kolkata, is in the heart of India’s coal belt. The solar project comprises 9,000 crystalline type solar modules of 230 watt each. The plant will generate three million units of electricity a year, enough to light 2,000 rural or 500 urban households.

The facility will save seven lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide emission a day i.e. as much CO2 as 2 MW thermal projects emit daily. The unique project could help Bengal reclaim its pioneer status in the power sector after nearly a century. Way back in 1897, the country’s first hydel project of 600 KW was set up at Sidrapong in Darjeeling.

At present, half the project has been completed with the 4,500 solar modules generating 1.25-mw electricity. The WBGEDC is vetting proposals from several firms who have shown interest in setting up the other half of the project.

The DPSC Ltd. will buy power at Rs 5 per unit and the ministry of new and renewable energy resources will pay Rs 10 per unit as generation incentive. WBGEDC can earn a further 97 paise per unit through the sale of carbon credit that the project will accrue. Annual revenue is pegged at Rs 4.8 crore. The project is expected to play a crucial role in achieving the solar mission of 15,000 MW under the PM climate action plan. That is imperative with the Indian Planning Commission projecting a capacity addition of 6.5 lakh MW from thermal, nuclear, hydel and gas by 2030, leaving a deficit of 1.5 lakh MW that only solar energy can meet.

Ref: Subhro Niyogi, "It’s sunrise for solar industry:In World’s First, Defunct Bengal Thermal Plant Is Being Converted Into Solar Station", Times of India Mumbai, Jun 16, 2009