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Karnataka looks to the sun to solve power crisis

According to reports, the state government’s desperation is becoming evident. It wants to tap solar energy to tide over the power crisis by encouraging residents to install solar panels on their rooftops and sell surplus power to the government.

In the legislative assembly on Tuesday, energy minister D K Shivakumar said Bangalore would be made a solar city. “All individual, residential, commercial, institutional, government buildings and industrial units are eligible to set up solar panels on rooftops to generate solar power and sell the surplus energy to the state grid,” he said.

But the proposal had its pitfalls. SL Rao, former chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, points out that except in Rajasthan and Gujarat, solar energy has not been a success in India. “Bangalore is a densely populated area and rooftops are the only place to have solar panels. Even after installing them, the city’s weather will be a hurdle as Bangalore does not have high temperatures,” he added.

Shivakumar’s plans are part of the government’s Solar Energy Policy for 2014-2021. The energy department has asked electricity supply companies (Escoms) to buy power by paying Rs 7.20 per unit for those who have availed subsidy from the Centre and Rs 9.20 per unit from non-subsidized customers.

Senior power officials say that even those who have a house on 30ft x 40ft site can set up solar plants. They would have to install a two-way meter which would measure the flow of power. The government plans to exempt solar rooftops from the norms related to floor area ratio (FAR).

To reach the targeted 450 MW solar energy in 2014-15 fiscal, Shivakumar said the government would promote production of power by land-owning farmers, to a maximum of 3MW. The department is considering lifting curbs on buying farmland for those setting up solar plants. The process of converting land-use pattern would also be simplified for solar plant developers by providing a deemed conversion facility for them soon after they buy farmland to set up solar plants.

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