Dimming glory of Sunderban solar power projects

By: Staff Reporter
Renewable Energy

New Delhi, Jan 07 (G’nY news service): The solar power programme of West Bengal has failed – set as it was amidst a healthy flow of funds and fanfare. With the grid extending to the Sundarban in 2011, the last ‘remote area’ in the State, solar power facilities are now on the depreciation curve.

Sunderban was solely powered by a solar mini grid with a capacity of nearly 700 KWp till 2011, when the grid was extended to Sagar Island – the largest and most densely populated island of Sunderban. The solar grid also covered small islands like Gosaba and Chottamollakhali. With the option of low cost grid power being made available (Rs. 6.17 per unit) in 2011, solar power pitched at Rs. 12 per unit lost its users.

“With separate metres installed”, said Joy Chakraborty, the Divisional Engineer of West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Authority, “we are able to tell how much solar energy is being consumed”. But, according to Anurag Danda, Head – Climate Adaptation & Sundarbans Landscape, WWF-India, “the payment for solar power is done on an ad hoc basis – charges are according to the number of points that draw solar power in the households. There are no meters to record the number of units being consumed”. He added that “there is often over consumption due to which the solar power plants fail”. Chakraborty believes that these points are used for appliances that do not overload the system, while in reality energy guzzling appliances like irons are also operated. Danda  believes that all the solar plants are working below capacity as the batteries, which are meant for storage of the power generated by the solar panels, are old.

Chakroborty asserted that solar power is being fed into the grid. The Renewable Energy Certificate Registry of India does not list any organizations from West Bengal under registered RE generators. Data from Power System Operation Corporation shows that no renewable energy is fed into the grid by east and north east of India. This means that the entire area generates less than 5 MW solar energy, which is not enough to be significant or ‘visible’ on the grid. With ambitious programmes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which declares a 20,000 MW target by 2022, dimming installation are likely to increase the gap between cumulative capacity and utilization.

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