Punjab, which missed out on boom in the information technology and automobile sectors, is new hot star of solar-power generation, with the capacity jumping from 9 megawatts in 2012 to 200 MW in 2014, and racing towards the 1,000 MW target for 2017.
World Bank has rated Punjab's progress in the field to be best of all states. The Government of India has asked other states to follow the Punjab model. Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) chief executive officer (CEO) Amarpal Singh is elated. "Rooftop solar projects," he said, "are going to be mandatory for households one day."
"Welspun, Punjloydd, Luminous, Azure, Lanco, Essel, and Sun Pharma, multinational players in the game, already have plants in Punjab and more producers are keen to invest in the state," said Amarpal Singh. Many expatriate and foreign-based companies have also invested in the sector. "At the state government's Progressive Punjab summit last year, companies committed to invest `3,000 crore in this sector, and the process has started," said a source in PEDA.
The catalyst of this success is Radha Soami spiritual dera based in Beas, which has one of world's largest rooftop solar gross metering power generating project of 7.524 MW with 30,096 solar photovoltaic panels fixed over thousands of asbestos sheets covering more than 21 acres of the largest congregation space in the world. It is bigger than any project in Italy, Spain, France, China, and the US.
The Beas project waits to add 4.880 more megawatts to the capacity from another 13 acres over the same roof, which will take the total generating capacity to 12.404 MW. "Our huge space for periodic congregations could not have been better utilised. The project gives us not much income but a plenty of clean energy," said a dera spokesman.
"The project cost `55 crore. Under an agreement, our selling price to the state power corporation will be `7.76 per unit for 25 years; even as the cost of power we get from the corporation is bound to go up over this period," the spokesman added.
The dera has taken in-principle decision to go for net metering project after installing a 12-MW solar-energy farm. "We might do it in the next phase, we require 20-MW power, 12 for our dera and another 8 for our hospital," said the spokesman.
Solar-power generation: State's graph
9 megawatts in 2012
200 MW in 2014
Target 1,000 MW for 2017
Captive metering: Plant is built for personal consumption
Gross metering: The entire power generated goes to the grid
Net metering: A combination of captive and gross metering.
7.524 megawatt, capacity of one of world's largest rooftop solar gross-metering power generating project at Radha Soami dera based in Beas
30,096 solar photovoltaic panels fixed over thousands of asbestos sheets
21 acres covered, is part of largest congregation space in the world
Bigger than any project in Italy, Spain, France, China, and the US
Build your own rooftop unit
Requirement: 100 square feet free space over the roof
Output: 1 kilowatt (runs 10 incandescent bulbs or 20 fluorescent tube-lights or 10 fans)
Normal household requirement: 3 to 5 kilowatt-capacity project
Cost: `1 lakh (with `15,000 subsidy)
Break-even: In 7 years
Project life: 25 to 30 years
Mechanism: A bi-directional meter keeps record of power consumed from the grid and contributed to the grid
Applicants: 1,046, so far
Nodal agency: Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA)
Punjab policy: Introduced in 2014
Preserves environment, saves oxygen: For every 1 unit of electricity generated in a thermal-energy plant, 0.820 kg of carbon dioxide is produced; 40 full-grown trees can absorb 1-tonne carbon dioxide in a year