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Defunct Indraprastha power station to be converted into solar plant

According to reports, it’s a rare point of agreement for Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal—renewable energy. The site of this unusual concord will be, if all goes according to plan, the defunct Indraprastha power station in the capital that was closed in 2010 after some four decades of pumping out pollutants from its 240 MW thermal units.

In a little less than two months, this patch of land on Delhi’s Ring Road will shine bright with the reflective brilliance of solar panels generating 1 megawatt of electricity. It’s not much but the power will be symbolic more than anything else—the commitment of the Modi and Kejriwal governments to clean energy and addressing climate change concerns.

The occasion will be the India-Africa Summit in October that will see leaders from more than 50 countries from that continent attending. While the state-of-the-art solar power station will light up the Delhi Secretariat, the summit itself will be hosted at the nearby Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, which for years used to be coated with soot from the chimneys of the Indraprastha power station.

The Centre is supporting the Delhi government, which is in advanced discussions with the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), to set up a 5 MW solar plant at the site. The Delhi government is soon expected to sign a power purchase agreement with SECI for getting the new avatar of the power station up and running in time for the Africa summit.

The Centre is keen on ensuring that at least a 1 MW unit is ready at the time of the summit. A solar lit Delhi Secretariat in the backdrop of the venue will be a powerful example of India’s dedication to safeguard the environment.

The Delhi government has already written to the urban development secretary on land lease issues and held rounds of meetings with MNRE and SECI officials.

Revamping the power sector and switching to clean energy is one of the pledges made by Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

“We definitely want to switch to solar at the Indraprastha power plant and have written to the urban development ministry on land related issues,” Delhi power minister Satyendra Jain told ET.

“We have also sought the assistance of MNRE and the SECI as we have no experience in setting up solar power projects on our own.” Jain said the 5MW solar plant was being viewed as a pilot project and plans are afoot to scale this up and possibly convert other units to solar energy as well. “The Rajghat power station is one of those being considered for the solar switchover,” he said. It is another of Delhi’s old and now near defunct, coal-based power plants.

The Indraprastha switchover was discussed at a meeting of the SECI board last week and it was agreed that if not 5 MW at least some capacity of solar power must be generated in time for the October summit.

Given the paucity of time, “a 1MW unit can definitely be set up through a limited tender,” a highly placed MNRE official told ET on condition of anonymity. “1MW should be also sufficient to power up the Delhi Secretariat. The remaining 4 MW units will be set up later through an open tender system.”

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