Illustration only/Wikimedia Commons

The Government of India, on December 10, decided to set up 25 solar parks each with a capacity of 500 MW and above as well as ultra mega solar power projects in various parts of the country where large chunks of land could be spared for the purpose. The schemes were approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The proposed solar parks will accommodate over 20,000 MW of solar power projects. The solar parks and ultra mega solar power projects will be set up over the next five years from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and will require financial support of Rs.4,050 crore from the government.

The government is also considering smaller parks in the Himalayan and other hill states of India where contiguous land may be difficult to acquire in view of the difficult terrain.

The solar parks will be developed in collaboration with state governments and their agencies. The choice of the implementing agency for developing and maintaining the parks will be left to the states.

The states will first nominate the implementing agency for the solar parks and identify the land for the projects. It will submit proposals to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for approval. This will include the name of the implementing agency. The agency may be sanctioned a grant of up to Rs. 25 lakh for preparing a detailed project report of the solar park and conducting surveys among other things. The DPR must be prepared within 60 days. Thereafter, the implementing agency will apply to Solar Energy Corporation of India for a grant of up to Rs.20 lakh per MW or 30 per cent of the project cost, including grid-connectivity cost or whichever is lower. All the states and union territories are eligible under this scheme.

As the transmission system will be developed for the entire solar park, developers will not have to set up their own transmission lines. This will save money and also prevent damage to the landscape. Developers would be able to set up projects very fast as they need not obtain statutory and other clearances.

The scheme for development of solar parks and ultra mega solar power projects has been conceived on the lines of the Charanka Solar Park in Gujarat, a first-of-its-kind large-scale solar park in India with contiguous developed land and transmission connectivity. To begin with, the ultra mega solar power projects are likely to be developed in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Laddakh in Jammu & Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet also approved the following proposals:

* Setting up over 300 MW of grid-connected and off-grid solar photovoltaic power projects by defence entities with viability gap funding under the National Solar Mission.

* Stipulation of mandatory condition that all photovoltaic cells and modules used in the solar plants set up under this scheme will be made in India.

* Provision of Rs. 750 crore for Ministry of New and Renewable Energy from the National Clean Energy Fund.

* Permission for right to use defence land by the developers chosen by the defence establishments by way of lease and otherwise or for self-use of the same by the defence organisations for setting up solar power projects and sale of excess power to distribution companies.

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