As part of an ambitious greening effort in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a plan to set up Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) power plants at two sites in Port Blair with battery storage amounting to 25 MW is underway — just short of half the islands’ current operational generation capacity that is predominantly diesel-based.
The proposed solar project is aimed at substantially replacing around 47 MW of diesel-run generation capacity that currently lights up the habitable parts of the archipelago of over 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal, alongside about 10 MW of renewable generation that is operational there currently.
Once the proposed solar capacity is set up, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands would be the first province in India where renewable sources would account for nearly half the generation. More importantly, the setting up of solar power plants with battery storage is being done on such a scale for the first time in the country. According to officials involved in the exercise, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has asked state-owned thermal major NTPC Ltd to set up distributed grid-connected SPV plants with battery storage in Port Blair. This move will help in reducing the cost of electricity generation, cut carbon emission into the atmosphere and enable the phasing out of diesel for electricity generation.
The sites identified for the solar projects are Manglutang and Chidiyatapu in Port Blair and the total capacity at two sites would be about 25 MW — Manglutang having a 17 MW plant and Chidiyatapu an 8 MW plant. Since solar plants with battery storage are being set up for the first time in the country, the costing has to be done from scratch. This is because the power regulator — the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) — has not so far notified the benchmark cost or tariff for such plants; the expenditure on setting up these plants will be known only on completion of the tendering process by NTPC.
As per information provided by the Electricity Department of A&N Administration, the power generation and distribution system of the islands is served by standalone systems. Since the islands are disconnected from the mainland, generation in individual islands is managed by isolated diesel-generator stations and associated distribution systems.
The peak load of about 58 MW in 2015-16 in the islands was being met through cumulative generation capacity of around 109.45 MW. Out of the total generating capacity, diesel-based generation is around 99.2 MW, of which about 51.745 MW of have already outlived their lives, thereby reducing the effective capacity to 47.465 MW available currently. Alongside this, the islands have a hydro-based generation of around 5.25 MW and SPV generation of 5.0 MW.
The consumer base in the islands largely comprises domestic consumers, who account for 83 per cent of the total user base. Due to geographical isolation and limited industrial growth in the islands, the consumption of electrical energy is fairly limited, too. The islands are scattered over a distance of more than 750 km with northern tip being in the vicinity of Myanmar and the southernmost tip being close to Indonesia. Of the 572 islands, 37 are inhabited, of which, 19 islands has been electrified and the remaining powered by captive plants of agencies such as the armed forces, police, lighthouse and lightships, and forest department.
There are no un-electrified rural or urban households in the islands except few remote and inaccessible households in the protected forest areas, according to the A&N administration. The sale of power in the islands is projected to grow from 229 MU in FY15 to around 330 MU by FY’19 at a compound annual growth rate of 10 per cent, with peak demand expected to grow from around 58 MW to around 68 MW by FY’19. Most of the non-domestic consumers are located in the South Andaman, Neil and Havelock islands of the South Andaman district due to tourist inflow.
Alongside the solar push, gas utility Petronet LNG has proposed to install a 30 MW (expandable to 50 MW) LNG-based generation plant in the south Andaman Island in the future to reduce the consumption of diesel. The island’s electricity department has also planned capacity addition of 5.2 MW through individual generator sets in Long Island, Havelock Island and Neil Island.