Coal India officials will do something unprecedented today – they will brainstorm with a select group of prospective bidders to decide on the technology to be used for setting up solar power plants. For once, mines won’t be on the agenda.
In a surprising diversification move, Coal India has decided to set up solar power projects across the country, the first of which would come up at Sambalpur in Odisha.
The purported reason for the world’s largest miner of non-renewable energy venturing into renewable energy, Coal India had told prospective bidders, is a growing realisation that the country’s coal reserve is not going to last for long.
“India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on,” Coal India’s bid document said.
The new tariff-based incentives for solar photovoltaic-based power generation, announced recently by the new and renewable energy ministry, is another reason Coal India is now looking at this option.
The power plant to be set up would be of 2 mw capacity initially, using crystalline solar photovoltaic panels in a modular form, which can be scaled up to have the requisite system to generate and export power to the main grid.
The solar farm would be spread over 9 acres in possession of Coal India.
The brainstorm session has been called to elicit suggestions and observations from prospective bidders on the scope of work and technical specifications.
While this will be a commercial project, Coal India is also mulling installing solar photovoltaic panels at Ranchi where its mining research arm, the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, is located.
This project of installing roof-top solar panels at the mining areas and staff colonies is aimed at reducing Coal India’s own energy bills, officials said.
Neyveli Lignite Corp, the other public sector coal mining company, is also actively venturing into solar power generation by setting up a 10 mw photovoltaic project near the Neyveli airstrip in the first phase. This will be increased to 25 mw later.
Initial bids were floated last year and techno-commercial evaluation is in progress.