Hyderabad: India’s biggest floating solar power plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts is expected to become operational in Telangana next month.

The project has been set up by the energy conglomerate National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in the reservoir of its thermal power plant at Ramagundam, Peddapalli district.

The solar photo-voltaic project, spread over 450 acres, will have 4.5 lakh photovoltaic panels and it can be expanded in the future

According to C.V. Anand, Executive Director, NTPC Southern Region, this will be the largest floating solar plant in the country in a single location as of now.

The project has been set up at a cost of Rs 423 crore.

The Maharatna company plans to set up solar projects across all thermal power plants in the country.

The NTPC plans solar power plants of a total capacity of 450 MW in the southern region. Of this, 217 MW plants would be floating on water bodies. The corporation is also setting up a 92 MW floating unit at Kayamkulam gas plant in Kerala and a 25 MW unit at Simhadri power plant in Visakhapatnam.

The NTPC embarked on setting up large floating solar plants after successfully completing pilot projects at Kayamkulam (100 KWH) in Kerala and Kawas (1 MW) in Gujarat.

Officials say the solar powers project are in line with the country’s commitment to attaining the target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022 including 100 GW of solar installed capacity.

The upcoming floating solar plants in South India are likely to be commissioned in the next few months. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the delay in the construction of the new projects.

Under the floating plants, the photovoltaic panels are deployed on the surface of water bodies. They are considered a viable alternative to land-based solar arrays. NTPC officials explain that setting up floating solar units on water bodies and huge reservoirs help them in cutting down on the costs. Floating solar units prove to be cost-effective when compared to the ground-mounted plant.

As South India has a large number of major reservoirs, NTPC Southern Region plans to focus on floating solar plants.

The company officials say they prefer solar floating plants due to their advantages. As five acres of land is required for setting up one MW solar photovoltaic plant on ground and given the challenges in land acquisitions, the authorities are going for the floating method.

There are other advantages of floating plants. As water bodies exert a cooling effect, this improves the performance of solar photovoltaic panels by 5 to 10 per cent. This means a significant cost saving for the plant owners.

The other benefits include reduced water evaporation, reduced grid interconnection costs, low algal blooming and improved water quality.

Interestingly, the world`s largest floating 600 MW solar energy project is also coming up in India. The project to be constructed at Omkareshwar dam on the Narmada river in Khandwa district, Madhya Pradesh, is likely to begin power generation by 2022-23.

Electricity will be produced in about 2,000-hectare water area by installing solar panels in the dam. Solar panels will float on the surface of the water in the reservoir.

The floating solar power project at Ramagundam is expected to give a boost to the share of renewable energy in overall power generation in Telangana. The total installed capacity of renewable energy, including solar, in Telangana, stood at 3,944 MW in 2019-20.

Telangana is among a handful of states and Union territories that are on track to meet their renewable energy targets for 2022.

The solar power projects by NTPC in the southern region include 5 MW unit set up at Port Blair Solar in Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2012, a 10 MW solar plant at Ramagundam in 2013 and the phase I- of the 250 MW (5X50 MW) Ultra Mega solar project commissioned at NP Kunta village of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.

The NTPC is also working on a 230 MW ground-mounted solar power plant in Ettayapuram near Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. This is expected to be commissioned by next year.

The solar power projects are part of NTPC’s plans to reduce its carbon footprints and accelerate its green energy production to 30 percent of its capacity.

NTPC Southern region has a total installed capacity of about 9,125 MW, out of the corporation`s total capacity of 64,880 MW in the country.

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