Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project

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Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project
Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project

Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project

The Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project is a project launched in Gujarat, India, to use the 19,000 km (12,000 mi) long network of Narmada canals across the state for setting up solar panels to generate electricity. It was the first-ever such project in India. This project has been commissioned by SunEdison India.

Renewable sources of energy have always been undermined by lobbying groups and other forces but the climate change is a constant reminder for mankind to move towards cleaner sources of energy. And now, solar energy has reached a critical limit where the cost of production has gone down and the platform has been created to more adoption which will only lead to a cleaner future.

Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project
Gujarat Canal Top Solar Power Project

Canal Top Solar Power Plant

Extreme Tech reports that mainstream solar cell technologies are still based on inexpensive silicon designs and have a maximum theoretical efficiency of 34%, but the real-life performance is around 22%. And as it turns out, that might be good enough to make solar power viable.

Our search to look at impactful developments in India led us to Gujarat Government’s project of putting solar panels over canals. The idea was implemented in 2012 and our visit to Gujarat suggests the project is going strong. Here are pictures from Sama Savli in Vadodara:

India has an aggressive target to achieve 100 GW of installed capacity of solar PV plant by the year 2022. If all the plants are installed at one place, the land occupied shall be 1.5 times more than that of the state of Delhi.

Here Are Some Of The Finer Details About The Project:

  1. The first 1 MW Canal-top Solar Power Project was implemented on the Sanand Branch Canal of the Sardar Sarovar Project.
  2. It is capable of generating 1.6 million units of clean electricity per year and 90 lakh liters of water is prevented from getting evaporated.
  3. The solar cells mounted on the canal top are cooler than their land-based counterparts. This resulted in the cells with an average temperature which was cooler by 10 percent. Due to this, the energy generated by the plant was significantly higher than a ground-mounted solar PV plant.
  4. In Gujarat alone, there exists a canal network of 80,000 km. As per GSECL’s (Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited) estimate, even if 30 percent of this canal network is used for solar PV plant installation, it can generate up to 18,000 MW of power which will also save 90,000 acres of land.
  5. Many other canal top plants have been set up in India itself—a 10 MW plant has been replicated in the city of Vadodara in Gujarat (Picture 2), a 1 MW plant has been set up in Karnataka, and a canal top plant has also been added in Andhra Pradesh.
  6. The first pilot project demonstrated by the GSECL received the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Best Project in Public Administration for the year 2015.

This is a great idea for implementation across the world. The Government intends to produce up to 100MW via this project and it is imperative to move quickly to reach the desired target of 100 GW of installed capacity of solar PV plant by the year 2022 (read detailed report).

As of December 2016, India’s solar grid has a cumulative capacity of 9 GW and it intends to touch 15GW by March 2017. For more information on the state of renewable energy in India, visit the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Canal Top Solar Power Plant
Canal Top Solar Power Plant

Inauguration Of The Pilot Project

Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, inaugurated a 1 Megawatt (MW) pilot project on 24 April 2012. The project is situated on the Narmada branch canal near Chandrasan village of Kadi taluka in Mehsana district.

The pilot project will generate 1 MW of clean energy per year and also prevent evaporation of 9,000,000 US gallons (34,000,000 liters; 7,500,000 imperial gallons) of water annually from the canal. The project virtually eliminates the requirement to acquire vast tracts of land and limits evaporation of water from the 750 meters (2,460 ft) long canal. tackling two challenges simultaneously by providing energy and water security.

Engineering And Construction

The engineering, procurement and construction contract for the project was awarded to SunEdison at a cost of ₹177.1 million (US$2.6 million). The pilot project was developed on a 750-meter stretch of the canal by Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (GSECL) with support from Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. (SSNNL), which owns and maintains the canal network.

The cost per megawatt of solar power, in this case, was much less than regular solar power plants, as the two banks of the canal will be used to cover the canal by installing solar power panel and the government did not have to spend much on creating basic infrastructure, including land acquisition.

Gujarat has about 458 km (285 mi) of the open main canal, while the total canal length, including sub-branches, is about 19,000 km (12,000 mi) at present. When completed, the SSNNL’s canal network will be about 85,000 km (53,000 mi) long.

Assuming a utilization of only 10% of the existing canal network of 19,000 kilometers (12,000 mi), it is estimated that 2,200 MW of solar power generating capacity can be installed by covering the canals with solar panels.

This also implies that 11,000 acres (45 km2) of land can be potentially conserved along with about 20 billion liters of water saved per year.

Praise For The Project

Then Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah praised Gujarat’s Canal Solar Power Project saying,

Abdullah said Damodar Valley Corporation, which has over 2,000 km (1,200 mi) of canals, will follow Gujarat’s lead and mount solar panels that can generate up to 1,000 MW.

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