Explained: why Telangana’s floating solar power plant is greener than ground-based plants

India’s largest floating solar power plant is now fully operational at Ramagundam in the Peddapalli district of Telangana. The 100 megawatt (MW) floating photovoltaic solar power project was commissioned by the National Thermal Power Corporation, the nation’s largest public sector electricity producer. As of July 1, following the commissioning of the plant, the total commercial operation of floating solar capacity in the southern region has increased to 217 MW, according to the NTPC.

According to an official statement, the 100MW floating solar power plant spread over 500 acres of the NTPC reservoir at Ramagundam is being constructed at a cost of Rs 423 crore through Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited under an EPC (Engineering, procurement and construction). After moving beyond fossil fuels to hydro, nuclear and renewable energy sources for power generation, the NTPC has set a goal of generating 60 GW (gigawatts) of capacity from renewable energy sources. renewables, which represents nearly 45% of its overall electricity production capacity, by 2032. .

What are floating solar power plants?

Solar power plants or solar farms can be either ground mounted or installed on the surface of water bodies. Although these floating farms are a little more expensive than traditional farms mounted on land surfaces, they also have advantages.

At a time of unavailability of large areas of land, floating farms do not require the acquisition of land for the installation of photovoltaic panels. They are more efficient because the presence of water underneath helps them stay cool. They also reduce water evaporation, thus saving more water for hydropower generation.

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How are these panels kept floating?

At Ramagundam, the solar modules are placed on 500 acres on floats made with a high-density polyethylene material that continues to float regardless of water level fluctuations. The entire spread is divided into 40 blocks, each with a capacity of 2.5 MW. Each of these blocks consists of a floating platform and an array of 11,200 solar modules. The floating platform consists of an inverter, a transformer and a high voltage circuit breaker.

How is the project unique?

This project is unique because all electrical equipment ranging from inverter, transformer, high voltage panel to supervisory control and data acquisition are also installed on ferro-cement floating platforms. According to the NTPC, the entire floating system is anchored by special high modulus polyethylene ropes to the dead weights (concrete blocks) placed in the bed of the surge tank. The energy generated is evacuated to the existing marshalling station by 33 KV underground cables.

How does it help the environment?

Solar panels floating on the surface of the water will reduce the rate of evaporation and thus help in water conservation. In addition, with a minimum land requirement, mainly for the associated evacuation facilities, the available land can be better valued unlike the case of ground-mounted solar farms, which require large land areas.

In Ramagundam, about 32.5 lakh cubic meters per year of water evaporation can be avoided. The mass of water under the solar modules helps maintain their ambient temperature, thereby improving their efficiency and production. Similarly, coal consumption of 1,65,000 tonnes can be avoided per year; carbon dioxide emissions of 2,10,000 tons per year can be avoided, according to the NTPC.

Future expansions

The commercial operation of a 92 MW floating solar power plant at Kayamkulam in Kerala and a 25 MW floating solar power plant at Simhadri in Andhra Pradesh was announced by the NTPC earlier. Even at its Ramagundam reservoir, the public sector company has currently only used about 500 acres of the spread to generate 100 MW.

At present, NTPC Ramagundam also owns a traditional ground-mounted solar farm, spread over 50 acres along the national highway, generating 10MW of power. With land not readily available, an official said there was scope for expansion to generate an additional 400 MW from the same reservoir. Meanwhile, the Telangana government is also learning to be keen on using floating solar farm technology in its many mega reservoirs to promote clean energy. The state and the NTPC had held a series of talks earlier.

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