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GERMI scientists propose roof over roads to tap solar power in Gandhinagar, gujarat

According to reports, India’s major roads may double up as solar highways, if an innovative proposal by some scientists gets the government’s approval. The proposal is the brainchild of scientists at the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) in the state capital.

In a paper just published in the International Journal of Energy, Environment and Engineering, the scientists say highways can be used to generate solar power, if a roof of solar panels was laid over them, across the length of the roads.  

The photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity is normally spread out on land. “While the price of PV panels is falling day by day, the price of land and its availability are constraints in the development of solar power, especially in India,” says Tirumalachetty Harinarayana, director of GERMI and one of the authors of the paper.

“Our proposal overcomes this obstacle by using the space over the highways for placing the PV panels,” Harinarayana. “This space can contribute to energy generation without extra land costs.”
The proposal by Harinarayana and co-worker Pragya Sharma is based on case studies they carried out on two highways passing through Gujarat, using computer simulation.

From their computations, they estimate that a PV roof cover over the four-lane 205 km-long Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate 104 MW of power while the Ahmedabad-Vadodara national highway, 93 km long, can generate 61 MW of electricity.

“We can suggest that the same concept can be extended for use on the 52,584-kilometre long national and state highways in India with four lanes or more,” the scientists said.

The four-lane 5,839-km long Golden Quadrilateral Highway, for example, connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, can potentially generate 4,418 MW of power while the North-South-East-West Corridor highway of 7,300 km connecting Srinagar, Kanyakumari, Porbandar and Silchar has 5,524 MW capacity of power generation.

“If having solar panel roof over the national highways proves successful, one can think of using all our rail network as well for solar energy generation,” Harinarayana said.

The GERMI scientists claim that apart from producing power, the solar highway concept, if implemented, can generate jobs for both skilled and unskilled people.

“Additionally, the shade provided by the over-head solar panels would result in improved vehicle efficiency and longer tyre life, besides reduction in road maintenance costs,” Harinarayana said.

“Another benefit of having a roof over the highways is rainwater harvesting at selected locations,” he said.

The scientists point out that the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission (JNSM) launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Jan 2010 could not reach its target of 1,200 MW electricity by March 2013 due to various problems.

“Again, there is no roadmap or clear plan to reach its 20 GW target by 2022,” said Harinarayana. He said the solar highway concept has the potential for large-scale generation of electricity with grid connectivity in short time.

“This requires one-time investment for constructing a simple elevated structure covering the national highways,” he said.

According to Harinarayana, Gujarat state is ideally suited to take a lead in implementing the proposal. The state, he said, has already made great strides in harnessing sunlight by establishing a large solar park near Charanka in the Kutch region, launching the five-MW solar roof top programme in Gandhinagar, and also erection of solar panels on a water canal.

He said GERMI would be ready to demonstrate the feasibility of the solar highway through a 1-MW pilot scale project once the government gives approval.

One comment

  1. It appears another waste of money like Canal roof top. Let them first submit the designs and spex for people to comment as this road roof top is not going to work in INDIA. Does the Scientific team study the movment of goods i.e the size of turbine consignment, Over dimension consignment for project as DMRC project or such infrastructure machinery will have different load and sizes.

    What is the protection against accidents and the amount of structures (which could be more costlier than panels costs like in Canal roof top). If the accident occurs, who will bear such repair expenses? Third party insurance? It would be a silly amount…. due to this roof top, the insurance premium has to increase due to such accidents due to over dimension trucks which can be limited to the toll gate height and width, but, will prove expensive. Hence, an engineering study is needed. It would be foolish to try 1 MW near someones building and then make tall claims as happened in Canal roof top.

    The solar tree concept on highways can be tried as it will also be protected against accidents as the high speed highways will have severe detrimental effects, incase of accidents.

    Below the fly way or around the turning fly overs, besides them, there will be space, so USA has tried such open area including the Motels. But, the evacuation of power is more expensive due to cabling, instead, the ground mounted systems in village area are more beneficiary to reduce the transmission losses and to reduce the cost of operation and maintenance which will be a repeat business for the petty contractors like Concrete contractors for Canals….hence, more public expenditure and increased cost of Generation…. Thus, one need to capture the total costs including the allied expenses and eventualities with good high way engineering knowledge and cabling in conduits along the road networks, which may prove prohibitory…

    The Scientists must disclose these aspects before spending the public money, in the name of PILOT. Our company can support to find such solutions as a paid service with necessary Engineering support, even to decide, go or no go.

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