by Mridul Chadha
India’s northern state of Punjab plans to set up 1,000 MW of solar PV projects to cover several kilometres of canals over the next three years. The state government has announced a target to cover 5,000 km of canals across the state. Through this program, the government hopes to generate 15% of the state’s total electricity demand.
Understandably, the construction of canal-top power plants is technically and structurally very different from rooftop or ground-based solar PV projects. The mounting structures for the solar PV modules cannot be heavy, as it could adversely impact the structural integrity of the canal itself. The structures should be easy to work with, as they are to be set up over a slope.
This is where the Punjab government has asked Lockheed Martin for help. The US-based company has entered into an agreement with the Punjab government to develop lightweight mounting structures for solar panels using nanotechnology.
Canal and rooftop solar power projects are the only viable options for Punjab as it is an agricultural state and land availability for large-scale ground-mounted projects remains an issue. As a result, the state government has a relatively lower (compared to other states) capacity addition target of 2 GW.
Earlier this year, the world’s largest rooftop solar PV project, with a capacity of 7.52 MW, was commissioned in Punjab.
As per the agreement between Punjab and Lockheed Martin, the company will also offer solutions for the utilization of surplus crop residue, which the farmers otherwise burn. The government hopes to enhance its biomass-based power generation capacity.
Gujarat was the first to implement a 1 MW canal-top solar power project. The project avoids high land costs and also saves a significant amount of water through the prevention of evaporation. The state is now working to complete a 10 MW canal-top project.