Solar energy sector gaining momentum in Karnataka

The solar power sector is gaining momentum in Karnataka ever since the government introduced a solar energy policy (2011-16). The government has recently concluded a bid process, in which 80 Mw (60 Mw for solar PV and 20 Mw for solar thermal) was allotted to developers at tariffs between Rs 7.94 to Rs 8.50 per unit for solar PV and Rs 10.94 and Rs 11.32 per unit for solar thermal projects.

According to a report Renewable Energy prepared by PwC, which was released at the conference on ‘sustainable energy through renewables’, organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), here on Wednesday, Karnataka is the only state to have supported solar projects under the REC (Renewable Energy Certificate) mechanism. Close to 950 Mw of project proposals have been submitted to Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL), which are under different stages of implementation like preparation of DPR.

With an installed capacity of about 14 Mw, the state has over 1.2 Gw of solar power projects in the pipeline under various schemes. Through the Arunodaya programme, Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd has commissioned solar PV plants of 14 Mwp (mega watt photovoltaic) capacity thus far (3 Mwp each in Kolar, Belgaum and Raichur in 2009 and a 5 Mwp in Mandya district in Karnataka. In 2010, the energy produced by the 3 Mwp in Belgaum was around 3.9 million units, based on report submitted to CERC. The plants seem to have overcome the initial technical issues and are performing at the desired plant load factor (PLF), the PwC report said.

The report stated that with minor changes in the policy framework, Karnataka may join the top three states in terms of annual wind capacity additions. Large untapped wind potential and above average wind profile are the key factors, which will attract investor in the states. It has been observed that the wind velocity in Karnataka ranges from 0.85 m/s.

Among the states in India, Karnataka has one of the highest potentials for renewable energy. Thermal and hydro have been the main sources of electricity in the state. Currently, renewable sources are contributing to around 24 per cent of the state’s installed capacity.

The renewable energy potential is estimated at 28 Gw, primarily from wind, small hydro, co-generation and biomass sectors. Until now, 2,016 Mw of wind, 88.5 Mw of biomass, 948.7 Mw of bagasse co-generation, 646 Mw small hydro and 14 Mw of solar power have been explored, implying a large potential remaining to be tapped. Further, the government has allotted projects of 17,278 Mw, amounting to nearly 60 per cent of the full potential, the report said.

Developing a robust and reliable transmission system is important for ensuring the growth of the RE sector. Good potential sites of RE sources such as wind, solar and hydro power are usually located far from the existing electricity grids and consumption centres. Therefore, it is important to augment the existing transmission networks for reaching these potential sites and ensuring that the power from these sources is utilised efficiently.

Expanding networks will be crucial to achieve renewable energy objectives efficiently and effectively. Also, the increase in penetration of renewable energy and expansion of transmission network must go hand in hand, thus scaling up the investments required in transmission infrastructures, the report added.

Source: Business Standard