Moser Baer’s Rs. 100- crore 5-MW solar grid interactive photovoltaic (SPV) plant in Sivaganga has technology suited specifically for Indian climate

Located in the hinterland is a project that proved to be a trump card for those advocating solar power as a solution to the power crisis in the State.

Spread across 65 acres in Rettai Pillai Ayyanarkoil, a tiny hamlet near Muthupatti in Sivaganga district, the 5-MW solar grid interactive photovoltaic (SPV) plant has exceeded the targets set in the planning stages, according to government and company officials.

International funding

Constructed at a cost of Rs. 100 crore, the plant has come up with funding from IDBI and the International Finance Corporation, a part of the Washington-based World Bank Group.

The Sivaganga project, identified by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) and implemented under the Generation Based Incentive (GBI) scheme of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, was commissioned on December 20, 2010. A power purchase agreement was signed with the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) for Rs.4.50 per unit. A GBI pact was concluded with Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) for Rs. 10.50. Totally, the plant yields Rs.15 per unit.

Being operated by Moser Baer Clean Energy, the project has a plant load factor of above 20 per cent against the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission’s stipulation of 19 per cent, according to its senior manager Kanagaraj Ramachandran.

The average daily production of the plant has been around 24,500 units. Excluding four per cent of the production for internal consumption and loss, the remainder is fed into the grid. In March 2011, the highest monthly generation was achieved with 31,500 units. This month, it was so far 31,200 units. Even in recent days of heavy rains, the plant has generated around 15,000 units, he says

Tamil Nadu has a major advantage over Rajasthan and Gujarat, leaders in the field, as the State does not have sand storms which damage solar panels and reduce their efficacy.

Further, he says, the Sivaganga solar farm uses amorphous silicon thin film technology, considered better for Indian climatic conditions. Even though crystalline film technology occupies 90 per cent of the solar photovoltaic market, it is more suited for European conditions. Thin film technology requires double the quantum of land compared to the crystalline film method, Mr. Ramachandran says. However, the land is not a problem in the Sivaganga region where most of the area is dry and arid.

Welcoming the Solar Purchase Obligation mooted recently by the State government, he says it will greatly attract investors to this technology as they would have assured returns.

In the Solar Energy Policy 2012 which targets 3,000 MW through solar power by 2017, it has been made mandatory for large power consumers to buy six per cent of their consumption from solar energy producers or from the State generation and distribution utility at higher prices or by buying solar renewable energy certificates.

Major thrust

Government officials say the Sivaganga project can serve as a model for similar ventures in the State.

The estimated gross potential for land-based grid connected Solar PV in Tamil Nadu is in the range between 4,000 MW and 21,700 MW, according to World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE), a Pune-based organisation.

The State government, the official says, is imparting a major thrust to solar power through, among other measures, setting up of solar parks in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode.