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Gujarat has attracted Rs 80 billion investment in solar energy

According to reports, over the last decade, Gujarat has emerged a power-surplus State and carried electricity to nearly all of its 18,000 villages through the Jyotigram Yojana.

Most of its areas now have a round-the-clock electricity supply. Its biggest cities such as Ahmedabad and Surat are lighted by the private sector and its state electricity board had come out of the red in 2006. Clearly, electricity availability and reforms in power sector have gone a long way in making the Gujarat miracle.

Mr D.J. Pandian, Principal Secretary (Energy), has been one of the architects of this phenomenon. Known in the business circles as Gujarat’s “Energy Czar”, he is the man behind the State’s energy projects. He also nursed the Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar, when he headed the GSPC Group.

Here, he speaks to Business Line on how solar energy has arrived in Gujarat. Excerpts:

What are the installed capacity and current production of thermal energy in Gujarat?

We have an installed capacity of 13,500 MW and now produce 11,000 MW.

How does the per megawatt installation costs differ in solar and thermal energy?

Our installed solar energy capacity is 604.8 MW, that includes 214 MW at the Solar Park in Patan and 390 MW in other districts. While thermal power plants come at Rs 3.5 crore (gas-based) to Rs 5 crore (coal-based) per mw, solar plants are installed at Rs 10-11 crore per MW of capital cost. But the solar plants have no variable costs as they require to bear no fuel costs thereafter. Also, we can now sell both gas-based and solar-based power at Rs 7-8 per unit, but the latter is free of the uncertainties of gas-availability and, in the long term, more dependable and cheaper.

How much investment has Gujarat, which now produces two-thirds of solar power in India, attracted in the development of solar power?

Nearly Rs 8,000 crore. And we hope to do more with further development of solar power in the Patan complex and elsewhere.

What is the USP of this park?

We have so far acquired 3,000 acres of government land for the development of 214 MW of solar power by different companies, which were allotted 250 MW capacity in 2008. The solar power capacity at Patan is estimated at 500 MW. We are now trying to acquire some private land as well to achieve this capacity.

In view of the availability of mainly wasteland, is Gujarat planning to add another solar power park in the near future?

Yes, we have identified some land in Banaskantha district as well and, hopefully, we would soon take a decision.

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