Rajasthan: bid process draws to close
Rajasthan’s bid process for 200MW of solar projects has been extended from January 30th to February 15th. How much closer will this bid round bring the state to its vision of powering India on desert sun?
By T.C. Maholtra in New Delhi
Last month the western Indian state of Rajasthan initiated a bid process for 200 MW of solar power projects. The 200MW capacity at stake is divided equally between concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) and photovoltaic solar energy (PV).
The contracts for photovoltaics are available in a size between 5 and 10 MW. For CSP the state offers two 50 MW contracts. However interested companies can bid for both types. The projects are to be built in a region with the second highest solar irradiation in India.
Bids are due by February 15 2012, after which the agency will shortlist candidates who meet all eligibility requirements. The bids will be opened around mid-April by the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL), which has been designated as the nodal agency for selection of the solar power producer(s).
The vast deserts of Rajasthan could be compared to the Sahara desert in Africa. With such extensive tracts of desert land – roughly 208,110 Sq.km – Rajasthan state has the potential to become the largest solar power producer in India. It is believed that, with very low average rainfall and availability of unutilized low cost desert land, Rajasthan is likely to emerge as the country’s solar power hub.
The high levels of available sunlight mean that CSP plants in Rajasthan could satisfy most of India’s energy needs in a matter of years. The state has more than 325 sunny days in a year with solar radiation of about 6-7Kwh/sq-m/day.
The direct normal insolation over Rajasthan varies from 1800 Kwh/m2 to 2600Kwh/m2. In Rajasthan, Jodhpur, referred to by locals as India’s ‘Sun City’, receives the highest levels of solar radiation.
Reliance Power Ltd. (RPWR), Shriram EPC Ltd. (SEPC) and SunEdison, the solar development unit of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (WFR), are among companies that are currently developing projects in Rajasthan.
50MW bonus for capacity building
The state government is also planning to auction a further 50 MW of solar power projects to companies that agree to build manufacturing facilities in the state. Rajasthan’s government had proposed that companies be eligible for licenses to install 10 MW for every 25 MW of manufacturing capacity they build.
Shivansh Tyagi, a consultant at Bridge to India, says, “We can expect at least 10-12 times over-subscription there and tariffs below Rs 8 ($0.16) per unit”.
Tyagi says that the government has come up plans of 4 solar parks, which could accommodate 1GW or more each. Also there is provision where developer can actually reserve land for their projects.
However, he, says that water availability always remain a problem for CSP projects, because most of the time high DNI area lies in water scarcity zone. They must therefore opt for technology that is highly water efficient.
Tyagi is of the view that Water Resource Department (Government of Rajasthan) will allocate required quantity of water from IGNP canal/the nearest available source for development of Solar Thermal Power Plants subject to the availability of water for power generation.
The state government of Rajasthan is firmly behind the development of both solar thermal and solar photovoltaics (SPV) power generation. Rajasthan state government is encouraging private sector projects through promotional incentives for the renewable energy sector.
The government recently announced plans to establish a Solar Energy Enterprises Zone (SEEZ) in the districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur by offering a package of incentives to private investors willing to develop various solar power technologies including solar thermal, solar photovoltaics (SPV), solar chimney, among others.
The State’s recently approved Solar Energy Policy 2011 is similarly expected to give a major push to harnessing solar energy in desert terrain. The policy envisages generation of 1,500 MW power through solar energy by 2013-14 with an investment of Rs.150 billion ($3 billion) from the private sector.
State Chief Minister Mr Ashok Gehlot explained that the new policy would facilitate an additional 3,000 MW of generating capacity between 2014-15 and 2017-18. “Many private investors have shown keen interest in setting up solar power generation units in Rajasthan and by 2018 we expect an investment of Rs.200 billion ($billion) in the sector,” he said.
According to the 2011 Solar Energy Policy draft, Rajasthan is favourably placed to become the largest provider of solar power among all sources of energy in India at a competitive cost, and on a scale that will boost the country’s economy.