Solar energy in Rajasthan

The ambitious solar power projects modeled after the special economic zones will take off the ground as the state government is kick-starting the bidding process for solar power plants from February 17. The process of finalisation of bids, approval and allocation of land will be completed by June this year, a top government official involved with the project said.

Out of the four proposed solar energy parks, the one in Jodhpur spread over 10,000 hectares is being developed first in phases where survey for 3,000 hectares of land has already been completed. Parks in other three places such as Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Barmer districts are being planned to make Rajasthan a solar power hub in the world with an aim to generate up to 11,000 megawatt (MW) in 12 years.

While the government targets a capacity 3,000 MW from the Jodhpur park, the current bidding will be for 100 MW, the official in the renewable energy department said. And in the first phase, he added, the department has planned for 500 MW.

The state that receives maximum solar radiation in the country along with abundant low-cost desert land has been in the forefront contributing most of the solar power produced in the country. But headwinds from high cost of production have thwarted the efforts of the state to realize its potential.

But the official said that dynamics of the industry is changing faster than imagined, its for the better, reviving the interest of investors. For example, the single window clearance panel that approved projects worth Rs 15,000 crore on Monday also cleared ventures from solar energy sector contributing almost half of the amount.

Speaking to TOI, Purushottam Agarwal, commissioner, bureau of investment promotion, said that committee approved the Kolkata-based Sonthalia group’s proposal for a solar park. He said the company is looking to set up an integrated solar park with an investment of Rs 4,500 crore. Besides, there were two other proposals worth Rs 1,500 crore, which were also cleared by the panel.

While the appetite for solar power among the investors has seen a resurgence, the availability of infrastructure will be a key deciding factor to attract investment in the sector.

"The aim of creating parks is to provide power producers the required infrastructure, which are being developed in Jodhpur park. The Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation is planning to create a special purpose vehicle for the development of infrastructure and management of solar parks," the official said.

Most of the infrastructure needed to evacuate power from the plants to the grid is available for Jodhpur park with Rajasthan Rajya Viduit Prasaran Nigam building pooling-in stations and transmission lines.

Rajasthan’s ambition to become a global solar power centre received a huge boost after the Central government allocated 873 MW to the state under National Solar Mission phase -1 out of the 1100 MW. By developing solar parks, the state also seeks to promote allied industries and activities like manufacturing, research and development, and training in these enclaves. It banks on the availability of raw materials like zinc, molten salt and solar glass to catapult the state as a destination for investments in equipment manufacturing.

So far 722 companies have registered for setting up solar power projects, with a cumulative capacity of 16,900 MW.