About 30 km from the taluk headquarters of Pavagada (Tumakuru), five villages under Vollur and Thirumani gram panchayats are quietly heralding a revolution in renewable energy. Earthmovers are busy paving new roads to link the 2000 MW solar power plant, touted to be the largest in the world when completed.The expanse of the solar plant, as per the information posted in front of the makeshift Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation Ltd (KSPDCL) office at Vollur, is 11,165 acres. Additional land is being acquired to make room for other amenities.Though there is a murmur of dissent among a few villagers, several others consider the project as a blessing in disguise, as scarce rainfall over the past few years had hit agriculture. A few kilometres from these villages, several smaller power plants being run by private parties are also becoming operational.
The solar power project is part of a nationwide initiative to generate more power from renewable sources. The Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL) and Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd (SECI), therefore floated KSPDCL for the project. “The region is thinly populated with barren land. Moreover, it is easy to supply power to the grid from where the plant is located,” said D Nagaraj, General Manager of KSPDCL.
By September 2017, KSPDCL hopes to generate 1,000 MW from the plant and another 1,000 MW by the end of September 2018. Generation of 600 MW will be by various solar power developers, which include Tata Power Renewable Energy Ltdand others, while 200 MW each will be developed by KSPDCL and SECI.
Cost of the project
While the SPDs will have to spend Rs 5-6 crore for generating 1 MW of electricity, KSPDCL will have to spend on developing roads and constructing power supply sub-stations.The cost, according to KSPDCL, will be around Rs 550-600 crore. “Four sub-stations in the first phase, four in the second phase and about 100 km of roads will be constructed to connect all parts of the plant by KSPDCL,” Nagaraj said.
A small 66 kV sub-station will also come up to ensure lighting and water supply to the plant.Apart from it, the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd is constructing a 400/220 kV pooling station and a transmission line to supply power directly to the grid, passing along the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border.Work on some projects, which are being taken up by private operators, are on in full swing. Solar panels will come up at a height of four feet from the ground.
Unlike other projects, where land was acquired, KSPDCL has signed an agreement with local farmers to lease out their land at Rs 21,000 per acre per year. As per the agreement, the farmers will remain the land owners with rights to sell. The lease amount will be revised by 5 per cent every two years. The lease agreement for the total land for the project will cost Rs 23-25 crore every year.
According to KSPDCL, Area Development Fund will also be collected from SPDs in later stages to improve local areas. Apart from it, there are also plans to implement rain water harvesting practices and improving greenery.
Recently, KREDL MD G V Balaram had noted that cost of setting up facilities to produce 1 MW of solar power has dropped from Rs 20 crore to Rs 5.5 crore. “As a result, we have been able to achieve grid parity, by charging Rs 4.35 per unit of electricity generated from solar energy,” he had said. In comparison, a unit of coal-generated power cost Rs 5 per unit.