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Solar power puts Modi, US on one platform

According to reports, Chief Minister Narendra Modi “dedicated to the nation” 600 Mega Watts (MW) of on-grid solar power plants on Thursday at the Gujarat Solar Park in Charanka village, Patan district, with representatives of various international agencies and the US government pledging future support.

While Modi was present at the solar park (the largest capacity at a single place with 214 MW), simultaneous “dedications” were held at nine other venues across the state by various state functionaries.

Modi also announced the rooftop solar power policy, where anyone can put up solar panels on their rooftops and sell power to the state government. He said that because of Gujarat government’s efforts, the cost of solar power came down to Rs 8.50 per unit from Rs 15 per unit and hoped it would decrease to Rs 4 per unit.

At Charanka, Modi and other state functionaries such as Industries Minister Saurabh Patel and Energy Secretary D J Pandian shared the stage with US Consul General in Mumbai, Peter Haas, Senior Climate Change Specialist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Naoki Sakai, and Dana R Younger, Chief Renewable Specialist at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank that finances private projects.

“My presence here today — and the participation of US companies in the Solar Park — demonstrates not only the US commitment to India’s clean energy needs. It also underscores the United States’ ongoing engagement with the state of Gujarat,” said Haas, who was seated next to Modi.

“Indeed, the US government’s total commitment to solar energy initiatives in Gujarat is worth over half a billion dollars in finance, insurance and investment funds support. This figure includes both realised disbursements and the active pipeline of projects,” said Hass, who on three previous trips to the state has avoided or deflected journalists’ queries on whether his country is re-considering issuing a visa to the CM, which was denied back in 2005.

Interestingly, while Modi in his speech paid first respect to “his excellency Peter Haas”, the transcript of the Consul General’s speech — dispatched by the US Consulate — does not once mention the Chief Minister’s name and says “Honorable Chief Minister”.

ADB’s Sakai said the bank has already invested US$100 million in Gujarat’s solar designs, and proposed US$ 500 million more on concessional terms for four main purposes — smart grid development for efficiency, building a second solar park within the state, expansion with solar smart transmission which will help stabilise erratic solar power supply, and vocational training with Gandhinagar-based Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU).

IFC’s Younger said the Corporation, which is assisting the Gandhinagar Solar City plans, wishes to replicate the solar city concept in five other cities of the state.

The roughly 5,000-acre park at Charanka involves 17 developers and, according to the government, has a capacity to eventually hold 500 MW.

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