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Kolkata’s college develops solar power generation system on waterbodies

According to reports, solar power can now be generated from still water found in ponds, lakes and waterbodies. A system of generating electricity from floating panels has been developed by a college in Kolkata.

Solar panels will be set up on floating platforms which will be anchored firmly so that it does not sway around on the water surface. However, scientists in charge of the project are still working on the ways of securing the platform in case there are strong winds.

With large waterbodies available in eastern and south-eastern part of the country in states such as West Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, this technology can lead to considerable savings on land prices and bring down power generation expenses, thus reducing the gap between thermal and solar power. It is also expected to offer greater generation yield compared to similar panels installed on land.

The first of its kind in India, the project is under execution at a lake in the outskirts of Kolkata city. The project estimated at Rs 35 lakh has been fully funded by the ministry of new and renewable energy and is expected to generate around 12 kilo watt of power by December.

The simple technology is expected to drive down land prices. Following the government’s announcement of setting up 2 lakh mw of solar power generation capacity, prices of barren land earmarked for solar power projects have gone up by at least 20-30 per cent. This has, in turn, pushed up solar power prices. Waterbodies can now offer an alternate solution to this problem.

To generate a mega watt of solar power, one requires about four acres of land at an investment of about Rs 7 crore. It produces power costing Rs 8 per unit. In contrast, if panels are installed on floating platforms, the area required is likely to be 10-20 per cent less.

Capital cost for such solar projects will be around Rs 6.5 crore per mw which will generate power atRs 7 per unit. It will also qualify for the state and central subsidy that the government provides as part of its solar mission.

The surface of the waterbody can be rented out by the owner and the rent will be minimal because such water surfaces can be put to no other use. In contrast, thermal power plants require an investment of up to Rs 6 crore per mw of generation capacity and the produce is priced atRs 5-6 per unit.

“The ecology of the waterbody is not likely to be affected much and it will also reduce evaporation, thus helping preserve water levels during extreme summer. Solar panels installed on land face reduction of yield as the ground heats up. When such panels are installed on a floating platform, the heating problem is solved to a great extent,” said SP Gon Choudhury, chairman, Renewable Research College.

The project has already attracted attention from state officials of Orissa and Kerala. “We have been approached by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in Orissa and the Kerala Airport Authority for setting up similar facilities in their areas,” said Choudhury.

“While the Chilika lake has an area of over 1,100 square kilometre, the airport in Kerala has a huge waterbody where such a facility can be set up. Such panels could also be installed on water reservoirs of dams.”

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