According to reports, investors in the renewable energy sector are planning to turn part-time farmers. Land-intensive solar power projects may witness plantations around panels and modules, with project developers exploring possibilities to grow low-rise and underground crops like beets, radishes, carrots, onion and potato along side the solar power panels. They are checking out the potential of plantations under the shades of solar panels, which is being experimented overseas.
US-based Kiran Energy, Gujarat’s Shashwat Green Fuels & Technologies (SGFT) and Gurgaon-based Moser Baer are some of the project developers inclined towards agriculture. Solar Energy Association of Gujarat founder chairman and Kiran Energy resident director Pranav Mehta intends to even file a patent for innovation in agriculture alongside of the solar power project.
Kiran Energy is commissioning 20-mw of solar power project in Gujarat and more capacity addition is on cards for Rajasthan. “It is an emerging concept and more developers may follow after success at some of the project sites. Project developers would have to look at alternative uses of free space with a decreasing solar power tariff,” said Mehta.
India is aiming at commissioning 20,000 mw of solar power generation capacity by 2020 at an investment of about Rs 3 lakh crore, which will require about 1 lakh acre of land as one mw cover 4-6 acre of area. Developers often commission projects on agriculture land instead of barren area to garner handsome profits after 25 year of life of solar panels. Almost 1,000 mw of solar power projects will be commissioned in Gujarat alone in the next few months while Rajasthan too has ambitious targets.
“We will grow cumin for optimum use of land. It will keep solar modules cool and prevent dust covering the panels. We also intend to set up 3-4 greenhouses on surplus land,” said SGFT business development head Karan Dangayach. SGFT is setting up one mw solar project covering four acre in Surendranagar district.
Moser Baer India group head of corporate communications Abhinav Kanchan said, “In Italy, Moser Baer commissioned a 4.99mw greenhouse solar park alongside agricultural activities. We are open for replicating the same model in India at suitable project sites.”
Meanwhile, Gujarat and Punjab plan to commission solar power projects on canal networks. It will reduce demands for land for solar projects and prevent stealing and evaporation of water resources besides keeping the canals clean.