The Financial Express, 28 October, 2019, 12:00 am
To overcome the hurdle of land availability for renewable energy (RE) projects, the Union government has on its radar territory along the International Border with Pakistan, having drawn up a plan to install 40 GW of solar-wind hybrid projects in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. While the capacity of the projects, at a distance of 20-25 km from the border, would be subsequently raised, the first phase would see 30 GW capacity being set up in Gujarat and 10 GW in Rajasthan.
Sources told FE the plan was set into motion after Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the RE potential of the border areas, stressing that such projects could also help generate drinking water for people living in the arid desert region. To that end, the government will be working on the technology through which wind turbines can condense water.
Rajasthan and Gujarat have identified suitable land patches for the purpose and submitted their geographical coordinates to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). The coordinates are said to have been sent for defence clearance. While Gujarat has zeroed in on land in the Kutch district, the Rajasthan plants are likely to be installed in Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Barmer. The MNRE has constituted two teams to develop the RE projects in the two states. It has also asked the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to submit a detailed phase-wise plan in this regard. The SECI would be working out with the Power Grid Corp (PGCIL) and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) the development of transmission capacity in the identified areas.
Commenting on the government’s plan, Kameswara Rao, leader, PwC India says, “besides their attractive solar and wind resource potential, these projects would help cut costs by reducing the need to transport diesel and transmit power to installations and habitations in the border areas”. While the MNRE did not respond to a request for comment, experts are agreed that the plan would help get round the issue of land availability, one of the primary challenges in the way of RE projects —every GW of solar capacity needs about 4,000-6,000 acres of land.
The plan to set up renewable projects along the border with Pakistan has followed the government’s move to build 23-GW solar capacity in the Ladakh region, entailing investments of around Rs 45,000 crore. Policymakers believe that besides creating huge RE capacity, the projects would drive economic growth of the Ladakh region and integrate the local population into the mainstream. Though the plan is in its early stages, the government wants the newly created union territory to be able to meet all its power needs through RE.
Building huge RE capacities on the border with Pakistan and in Ladakh is a part of the larger agenda which made the prime minister target, at the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York, 450 GW of RE capacity by 2030. The country’s RE capacity stands at 82.6 GW at present, as against the goal of 175 GW by December 31, 2022.