With the huge target of adding 40 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar power capacity by March 2022 looking more and more difficult, the Indian government is seriously looking at other unconventional ways to expand the solar power capacity base in India.
In the latest initiative, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has agreed to a proposal to pursue floating solar power projects on a large scale across the country, and especially in the states where land availability for setting up utility-scale solar power projects is a problem.
The Ministry has tasked the National Institute of Solar Energy and NB Institute of Rural Technology to conduct a study to identify water bodies that are feasible to set up such power plants. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has identified around two dozen land-based solar power parks to be set up in as many states. However, the bulk of the solar power capacity will come from a few states where large areas of wasteland is available.
A number of states in the northern and northeastern part of India — including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, and Assam — lack large areas of wasteland. These states will be targeted for setting up floating solar power projects.
According to one estimate, if 10–15% area of India’s waterbodies are utilised for setting up solar power projects, the total capacity would be around 300 GW — that is three times the installed capacity target for March 2022 set by the government.
Several ambitious plans to set up floating solar power projects in India are already underway. The largest of those was announced recently by NHPC Limited. The company plans to set up 600 MW capacity on the reservoir of Koyna dam in the state of Maharashtra.
German development agency KfW recently offered aid to the Ministry to set up two floating solar power projects in Maharashtra and Kerala.