Sri Lanka will soon kick-start the process of setting up a solar power plant in eastern port town Trincomalee after discussions with India, which is partnering the Government in the initiative. “The next step would be to undertake a feasibility study and do the groundwork,” spokesman of the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy Sulakshana Jayawardena told The Hindu on Wednesday. In April this year, the governments of Sri Lanka and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding, for cooperation in a host of development projects including the setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur, Trincomalee.
“We have the required land to set up the 50 MW solar plant envisaged in the MoU. We have to now work out the process of executing the project, in consultation with India,” Mr. Jayawardena said. Sri Lanka had initially planned to set up a coal power plant in Sampur, through an international joint venture with India’s National Thermal Power Corporation. However, in September 2016 the Power Ministry scrapped the project citing environmental concerns. A month later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Maithripala Sirisena in Goa, on the side-lines of the BRICS summit, where he flagged the possibility of New Delhi partnering Colombo in LNG and green energy projects.
Sampur, where the solar plant is set to come up, is located in the strategically important port town of Trincomalee, on the north-eastern coast of the island. India and Sri Lanka have agreed to jointly operate a world war-era oil storage facility in the town, with the aim of developing it into a regional petroleum hub. The proposed solar power plant is in line with Soorya Bala Sangramaya (Battle for Solar Energy), an initiative that President Sirisena launched last year to add 220 MW of solar power to Sri Lanka’s energy grid by 2020. Currently, the island relies heavily on thermal sources that meet over 70 per cent of the country’s energy needs.