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Solar power projects miss deadline

According to reports, about 325 days of good sunshine in a year has still cast a shadow over the concentrated solar power projects in the state. A major initiative of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the state government to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing energy security is caught in the warp.

Four of the five concentrated solar power, CSP projects in Rajasthan, totaling a capacity of 470 MW, allotted under the first phase of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) are running way behind schedule and have missed the scheduled commissioning, May 9 deadline. Now considering that these projects are being built for the first time in India, the ministry has decided to defer the penalty of Rs 1 lakh/MW/day and extend the deadline of commissioning the projects by 10 months. Under contracts awarded in December 2010, the plants would else have had to pay about 2.3 billion rupees ($42.5 million) in late penalties.

“This is the first time solar-thermal projects are being built in India and we want them to succeed. All developers are building CSP for the first time and it is a learning period. The technology is new and there are only two companies in the world that supply components, like heat transfer fluid (HTF) and mirrors that has resulted in the delay,” said Tarun Kapoor joint secretary Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

While 50 MW Godavari Green Energy Ltd is the only CSP project in Rajasthan that would be commissioned this year, all other projects are way behind schedule. Lack of accurate and ground measured Direct Natural Irradiance, DNI data has been one of the main reasons for delay in project execution. Due to significantly lower DNI at ground level, than published data available earlier, the projects had to be re-engineered. This re-engineering also impacted the procurement process as quantity, design, specifications of most components of the solar field had to be revised. It also resulted in requirement of additional land for the developers.

Besides, developers feel that the commissioning period of 28 months was overambitious. The total time period of 28 months for completing all activities including land acquisition, financing, development of infrastructure (for water supply, power evacuation, etc) and construction of the project is very challenging. Considering the fact that these projects are happening for the first time in the country, the time provided is insufficient.

Add to that there are only two proven suppliers of Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF) globally. US-based Dow Chemicals and Solutia monopolise the market in HTF and have pending delivery schedules due to high demand from projects in the US and Spain. This has contributed to delay for most CSP developers in India.

“Besides that there are other technical glitches. While sunshine is good in the Thar, DNI is low because of the dust factor and it is not possible to get the right temperature. But we are working on it,” said Kapoor.

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