The West Bengal government is planning to generate 180 megawatt of solar power in the next two years. So far only seven megawatt of solar power is produced in West Bengal, which is very poor, compared to states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
It has identified 1,300 government buildings, schools and hospitals for setting up solar panels. In 2016-17, the target is to generate 61 megawatt of power, whereas in 2017-18, the target is 120 megawatt. The government is planning to spend over Rs 1,000 crore on the project.
The government had pledged of 100 per cent of rural electrification by next year. It had also planned to bring the remotest islands of Sundervans under the power grid by this year. However, not much progress could be made because locals were objecting against the acquisition of land, however, small it might be for installation of poles.
Land acquisition has become a sensitive subject in Bengal, post Singur. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who led the save farm land movement from 2007, is also not ready to antagonise the people, if they were not willing to give away their land for public purpose.
“She has asked us to negotiate with the locals and try and convince them about what changes rural electrification will bring in their lives. She has asked the people’s representatives at the local level to go for a consensus before embarking on the project,” said an official of the power department.
However, the land problem will not come up in case of generating solar power since the government will use its various departmental buildings for setting up the panels.
“While solar panels will help in lighting up the government buildings, the cost of production can also be brought down,” said the same official.
The panchayat and rural development department has agreed to make use of nearly 400 buildings. The health department is willing to offer 200 terraces of its various buildings.
A huge amount of money is spent on account of electricity bills. The government hopes to cut down the expenses of several crores once the panels are fitted on the roof tops and terraces.