The vast stretches of waste lands in Dharmapuri district can be turned into ‘energy fields' as the district has the highest potential of solar energy production. Even with five per cent of utilisable waste land, nearly 5,750 megawatt of electricity can be produced through solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, according to a report published by the World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE).

The report, titled ‘Solar Road Map for Tamil Nadu,' relies on solar radiation data determined using METEONORM (Global solar radiation database) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) database.

Vellore, The Nilgiris, Tiruvannamalai and Salem are the other locations considered suitable for solar energy production with the potential of 2,672 MW; 2,232 MW; 2,170 MW and 1,853 MW using five per cent of utilisable waste land.

As per the preliminary potential assessment study by WISE, the estimated gross potential for land-based grid connected Solar PV in the State is in the range of 4,000 MW to 21,700 MW. The potential for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) or solar thermal projects is estimated to be around 400 MW to 2,000 MW in the State.

The report has recommended installation of at least six to seven demonstration grid connected solar power projects using Solar PV.

Suggesting setting up of solar specific SEZs to facilitate indigenous manufacturing of solar devices, the WISE report recommended a Solar Energy Policy on the lines of Gujarat and the creation of Clean Energy Fund (by levying Green Cess) as in Maharashtra. The report also underlined the huge potential for installation of rooftop PV and small scale solar power projects and solar heating applications, all incorporated into a comprehensive Solar Energy Development Policy. It also suggested reduction of taxes and duties on balance of systems such as inverters and deep discharge batteries.

The report has been prepared for Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) by Surendra Pimparkhedkar, Ranjeet Singh and Mangesh Ghungrud of WISE.