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Separate grid for solar, wind projects on anvil

According to reports, the government would set up a green corridor to generate power from solar and wind capacities that were established at a cost of Rs 50,000 crore, Planning Commission member BK Chaturvedi told Financial Chronicle.

“The green corridor is the answer to the high cost of transmission of solar and wind power… The separate grid is proposed to be set up with the help of Power Grid Corporation,” he said. If states buy electricity from the solar and wind power plants, the cost of transmission goes up.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change has recommended that India generate 10 per cent of its power needs from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources by 2015, and an additional 5 per cent by 2020. India has the world’s fifth-largest wind power capacity of 17,000 mw. Of this, Tamil Nadu alone has 7,000 mw capacity. The Planning Commission has targeted 10,000 mw of solar power and 15,000 mw of wind power by 2016-17.

India’s electricity sector is among the world’s most active players in renewable energy and its use, especially wind energy. As of December 2011, the installed capacity was 28,000 mw of renewal technologies-based electricity, more than the total installed electricity capacity in Austria using all technologies.

The green corridor would attempt to synchronise power produced from solar and wind energy with the grid. The present transmission line finds it difficult to evacuate wind and solar power because of fluctuating voltage. Once the region gets connected to the grid by next January, the southern states would get a big relief from power shortages, said Chaturvedi. The northern, western, eastern and northeastern regions are now connected to the grid.

Once the south is linked, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka would gradually see fewer power outages because it would then be possible to transfer surplus power to that region.

The power situation in the south would improve in the coming months with the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant already on stream. The unit would add 1,000 mw to the region.

The second 1,000 mw unit is expected to go on stream by the end of the year. Work has begun on the third and fourth unit of similar capacity at Kudankulam.

Chaturvedi said he expected the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra to come up only during the 13th plan. Nuclear energy, he said, would get a big push in 13th and 14th plans.

The 12th plan, he said, would perhaps be the first to achieve its power generation target. “I would not be surprised if we do the 88,000 mw targeted for the plan. We have done 20,000 mw in the first year – a record,” he said.

Coal linkaged have already been tied up for 60,000 mw of thermal power to be added during the plan.

Chaturvedi said with solar power now costing just Rs 6.5 per unit without much recurring cost, many states have drawn up plans to step up solar power generation.

“Many people are preparing for their own plants (solar power). Many state units have there own (solar) plants. The thermal (cost of generation) is Rs 3.5-4 per unit because coal is cheap and subsidised. If you depend on imported coal, then the cost (of solar electricity) would be more or less the same as thermal power,” he said.

There are already several off-grid initiatives to encourage solar power. Solar lanterns have been a hit. A huge number of them are being distributed by various agencies, including NGOs.

Two other positives have emerged: the creation of adequate power equipment manufacturing capacity and resolution of the problem of tariff. Several states have revised tariffs to reflect the increase of costs; others are in the process of doing so.

“What is not so positive is availability. Domestic coal availability is 65-75 per cent. Thermal plants’ in the past needed 85 per cent,” he said. This would bring down the plant load factor from 79-80 per cent to 70 per cent.

“It is now the question of transition, of getting used to this sort of situation.” He added the additional coal requirement would have to be met through imports or increasing power generation from renewable sources.

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