A multi-benefit pilot project generating one-MW electricity from solar panels atop the Narmada branch canal was dedicated to the nation by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

Besides producing “clean energy” without causing any pollution, the solar panels would spare an enormous amount of land otherwise required if the solar power project was land-based. In addition, they save a huge quantity of water in irrigation canals from evaporation.

Under the project, set up jointly on an experimental basis by the State-owned Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) and the Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, solar panels have been fitted over a 750-metre stretch on the Sanand-Kadi Narmada branch canal to generate 16 lakh units of clean electricity annually. As the canal will remain covered, it is estimated that the project will prevent evaporation of 90 lakh litres of water annually. Experts claimed that the trial run of the plant had indicated 15 per cent additional power generation compared to similar land-based solar panels for, the water flowing under the panel had helped to keep them cool.

Considering the total canal network of the Narmada dam project in Gujarat, even if 10 per cent of the 85,000-kilometre long main, branch and sub-branch canals were covered with solar panels, they would generate 2,200 MW, eliminate the need of 11,000 acres of land and prevent evaporation of about 2,000 crore litres of water annually, the experts claimed.

Mr. Modi said the pilot project would put Gujarat and India on the world energy map, and it would also be a major contribution to the humanity in the field of clean energy and solving the problem of both water and power shortages.

Pointing out that he had already asked both engineering students and the experts to work on the pilot project further, Mr. Modi said it would do wonders if installation of solar panels became feasible on the Narmada main canals also. It was because of the huge width of the main canals that the experts did not find it feasible to put up heavy solar panels without support, which in turn would restrict water flow. But he expressed the confidence that a solution would be found soon.