30 Sep 2015 15:12 IST

Now, the Sun God’s own country

Kerala endeavours to turns solar savvy

With Kerala betting big on solar power, the State may well change its advertising line to ‘The Sun God's Own Country’. For, very soon solar panels are likely to make their presence felt everywhere – at the solar park in Kasaragod, in unutilised land, atop tribal colonies, even over dams and canal banks.

Leading the charge is its State Electricity Board — KSEB — which has recently chalked out strategies to generate around 250 MW solar power, of which 200 MW will be from the proposed 1,000 acre Kasaragod solar park.

For the remaining, the utility will rely on laying out solar panels in unutilised land across its substations. Through this it proposes to produce 20 MW during the current fiscal, which will be upped to 50 MW by 2016-17.

Forming partnerships

For the solar park, KSEB has joined hands with Solar Energy Corporation and formed the Kerala Renewable Energy Corporation. The ₹1500-crore project is likely to meet the power requirements of over 50,000 households by mid 2016.

According to M Sivasankar, Chairman, KSEB, the government has already completed administrative formalities to hand over 500 acres in Kasargod.

And of the targeted 200 MW, at least 50 MW would be produced by the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation and another 50 MW by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency. He is banking on the remaining 100 MW to be generated through the viability gap funding approved by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Getting into the fineprint of the programme, Sivasankar explained that it was mandatory for the Board to maintain a certain percentage in the total energy consumption of solar power based on the stipulations made by the Union Power Ministry on the renewable purchase obligation (RPO).

However, the percentage of purchase would vary every year according to the consumption pattern. But if this did not happen, the Board was obliged to purchase solar power from outside sources. This, however, was neither viable nor affordable, he said pointing out that the RPO is fixed by the regulatory commission keeping in mind the broad objectives of the national tariff policy.

Given this situation, the KSEB has decided to go ahead and harness the sun on its own.

Tariffs play a role

Tariffs too were a consideration. Today, the average cost of supply is ₹5.75 and the revenue realised by KSEB is ₹5.25 per unit of power. Due to differential tariff (Time of the Day tariff), the revenue realised will be ₹4.75.

Hence, it makes sense for the Board to get into massive solar generation only if the tariff is below this level.

The present power consumption in Kerala is 60.35 million units with a generation of 15.29 million units. The balance is received from the central pool as well as through outside purchase.

Meanwhile, the KSEB has also received sanction to set up a 3 MW solar power project at Barapole Small Hydel Electric project, which is nearing completion at Irutty near Kannur.

The ₹27-crore project is to lay solar panels on the canal top under a pilot-cum-demonstration project. Initially the project capacity was 2 MW, but it was enhanced to 3 MW on the KSEB design team’s recommendations.

In its endeavour to use solar power in the energy mix of Kerala, the Board has decided to optimise the available potential. It has also made core changes in the tendering process for projects to avoid time delay in implementation. This has received encouraging response from private players for project execution.

Pilot project

According to Sivasankar, the 1 MW solar power project at Kanjikode in Palakkad on an experimental basis is one such plan and this has enabled the transfer of around 4400 units to the grid daily. Besides, the solar panels laid on the top of tribal colonies in Agaly in Palakkad also helped to transfer 360 units to the grid.

KSEB also floated tenders to set up 47 KW projects in various tribal colonies in Palakkad which lack electricity connections. Plans are also afoot to set up solar power panels over dams and canal banks to generate at least 500 KW.

With all these projects in hand, the Board is aiming at making several distant villages self sufficient in power.

However, there are some hitches that the Chairman cited, especially in rural areas in connecting solar plants with existing power lines which have less-load capacity.

Current rules allow only those plants that have power capacity up to 80 per cent of the minimum average load during day time to be connected.

He pointed out that grid connectivity is a complex issue and the Board had addressed the MNRE for its help and guidance in managing based on best practices.