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Hot Pursuit of Solar Energy

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In its ‘hot pursuit ’for more solar energy, after the State Government set the ball rolling with its measures to increase production from renewable energy sources through public private partnerships, the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) has received a good response from the private players. The KPCL invited bids from private players earlier this month, to which as many as 19 private players responded. Major players like Larsen and Toubro, BHEL, BEL, Moser Baer India, AstonField, Suntext systems and Tata BP solar have submitted prequalification requirement forms to set up plants for KPCL. According to S Ramesh, Chief Engineer, KPCL, the Corporation will now evaluate these bids based on different benchmarks. Tenders will be opened by the second week of November, he said.

The project is likely to go into the implementation phase mid-way through December and will be completed within nine months from then. Fifteen acres each has been acquired at Yelasandra in Kolar district, Itnal in Belgaum, and Yapaldini in Raichur to set up three grid-connected solar plants of three MW each. While the estimated production cost per unit will be around Rs 28, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission is yet to finalise the price at which KPCL can sell the electricity to the electricity supply companies.

The estimated cost of each project is about Rs 75 crore. The corporation will use solar photo voltaic crystalline panels to harness the sun’s energy. The energy generated from these plants will be exclusively used to run irrigation pump sets. In coordination with the electricity distribution companies, a dedicated 11 kv line will be laid and uninterrupted power will be supplied to the IP sets. With each plant we can run 400 IP sets and can irrigate 1200 acres, said S Ramesh. The State can also be proud of being one of the pioneers in setting up grid-connected solar plants of this magnitude.

The above is the text of a report captioned "KPCL’s ‘hot pursuit’of solar power" that has appeared in the New Indian Express yesterday.

Interesting development - however, at an investment cost of Rs 75 cr for 3 MW (ie Rs 25 cr per MW), leading to production cost at Rs 28 pu (compared to max investment cost of Rs 5 cr per MW, and production cost of Rs 5 pu respectively, in case of a conventional thermal plant), how are the economics going to work out?

Also, wouldn't it have been better to go for 'solar-thermal' (check: rather than 'photo-voltaic' technology?

Whatever, the idea of forming exclusive local grids to operate IP sets makes a lot of meaning.

All said and done, there's some energetic action on the state power front. But, unless the distribution is privatised, (check:, one can't see how anyone is going to manage the situation in case of the slightest dislocation of supplies, particularly by the rain Gods.  

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