According to reports, the shortage of land in several districts has put a question mark on the ambitious solar power mission that the TDP government so grandiosely announced.
“We require about 5 acres of land per one mw capacity. At this rate, mega solar parks require thousands of acres, which are not readily available in one lot in many districts. Now, we have asked the district collectors to prepare a list of government land tracts in each district so that we can identify possible land for the solar power projects,” said a senior official of the energy department.
In fact, the state does not have land to spare for the 1,000 mw project that APGenco recently signed up with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). The project will come up in Kadiri, Anantapur district, and is being touted as the largest solar power unit in the world. However, according to the sources, the AP government has been able to arrange only 250 acres so far and has asked NTPC to commence the works in the hope that the remaining land would be acquired soon.
Realizing that land is becoming a big issue, Japan’s SoftBank, which promised to set up solar power projects with a capacity of about 10,000 mw (apart from the 10,000 mw that the state has planned), is not showing any interest to move forward on the project, the sources said. For the 10,000 mw solar power parks that SoftBank wants to set up, it would require about 50,000 acres of land.
“Realizing that land is at a premium, we told SoftBank to make its own arrangements to acquire the required land. At a time when they are supposed to come up with a detailed proposal on the solar power parks project, there is no word from them,” said the AP official.
With land rates having skyrocketed in many districts, particularly in the coastal region, district collectors are finding it difficult to identify land for the solar power plants. On top of that, farmers in the backward Rayalaseema districts are demanding four to six times the market rate to part with their land.
“At present, solar power is being purchased at Rs 5.50 per unit. No power utility is willing to sign a long term power purchase agreement in the belief that the rates will crash in the near future. As the solar plants are running at low plant load factor of about 20 to 22%, return on the investment will also be low and it will take a long time to recover the entire investment,” explained an official of the energy department.
Other solar power initiatives such as roof top solar panels and solar agriculture pump sets are also struggling to take off. Of the total 50,000 solar agriculture pump sets targeted for the year, only 3,000 have been distributed in the last ten months. With no clarity on the purchase of power generated from the roof top panels, domestic and commercial consumers are not showing any interest to install these units.
“All this clearly shows lack of preparation on the part of the TDP government before making ambitious announcements on solar missions,” lamented the official.