Newly elected prime minister of India, Narendra Modi has done futuristic projects in his political career. Out of them, Canal Power Plant Project is one of the most highlighted and globally recognized projects done by the leader. India’s first Canal Solar power plant was inaugurated on 24th April, 2012 in Gujarat state by then Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi with generating capacity of 1 MW. The project is commissioned by SunEdison India Company. It is estimated to generate near about 16 lakh units of clean electricity per annum that means 1,33,333 units per month which is sufficient to energize 1,300 homes continuously having average usage of 100 units per month.
- Land Acquisition
Major benefit of installing solar PV arrays on canals is that government doesn’t need to acquire any land from people. This saves most of project cost and improves load factor of land.
- Water Safety
As PV cells cover all canals, there is very little scope for water evaporation. Thus water crisis can be handled more effectively.
- Energy Security
By installing canal solar power plants, we are not only utilizing sun energy to increase generating capacity but also securing our water resources which is need of future.
With this project Modi has uplifted the concept of generating electricity with the help of available canal network. Damodar Valley Corporation, which accumulates approximately 200km of canal network, is going to replicate the concept. It is estimated to generate 1000MW of electricity if all canals are covered with solar PV cells.
- Design problems
Designing Solar PV array is challenging task for canal power plant as we have to change the dimensions of Photovoltaic cells which are located at bending edges of river. (You know, river doesn’t always flow in straight direction)
- Stronger Base support
As we can see in photos, the structural base of PV cells needs to be stronger and erosion free. Steel structure required for installing PV cells increases project cost.
- Effect of humidity
Humidity of canal water will change the atmosphere near PV cells. This affects their efficiency. New technologies for PV cells need to be developed which will not change their performance with increase or decrease in humidity, air velocity and dust.
- Security and Protection
Having such heavy length of river, it is difficult to protect transmission network from possible sabotage and threats. Fencing canals from both sides is costly and not permanent solution.
- Power Transmission
The length of river is so long that it can be assumed as long transmission line (having length of 150+ kM) Increase in length increases resistance of line and decreases power transmission capacity. As energy density of renewable sources is less, it is difficult to connect whole canal network by single connection. We suggest using such electricity at local points. For example, a line has length of 200 kM, it should be divided in 5 groups and 5 different substations should be installed near easily accessible canal areas. The generated electricity then can be supplied to nearby villages directly. If we implement this, people in nearby villages will start knowing the importance of this project and whole system will be automatically protected.
More Projects on the way;
Solar on the water concept is being accepted by many global companies. MDU Resources Group (Mining and energy infrastructure group) signed a deal with SPG Solar for installing solar PV arrays on setting ponds at gravel mines situated in California. Sydeny based company Sunengy has implemented a small hydroelectric reservoir pilot project near Mumbai (shown in photo) in India with the help of Tata Power, India’s largest private sector industry.