Only one-fourth of sanctioned solar projects have taken off, says Minister

Some solar parks were cancelled due to slow progress; other hurdles include difficulty in acquiring land, environmental issues and halt in economic activity owing to pandemic, New and Renewable Energy Minister R.K. Singh tells Rajya Sabha

The Union government has so far sanctioned solar projects with a capacity of nearly 39,000 MW but only a fourth have actually been commissioned so far, reveal figures presented by R.K. Singh, Minister for New and Renewable Energy, in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Under the ‘Scheme for Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects’, a total of 57 solar parks of aggregate capacity of 39,285 MW were sanctioned until November-end. However, only solar power projects of 10,027 MW have been commissioned in these parks.

Citing reasons for the shortfall, Mr. Singh said some solar parks had been cancelled due to their “slow progress”. The key challenges in this scheme included hurdles in acquisition of land with clear title; a “mismatch” in the time taken to set up a project and the infrastructure to route the power produced to the grid; “environmental issues” and the halt in economic activity due to COVID-19, he said.

Bird habitat affected

In his reference to “environmental issues,” Mr. Singh mentioned the “Great Indian Bustard (GIB) issue”. In recent years, the habitat of the GIB — a critically endangered species that number less than 200 in Rajasthan — has been encroached upon by solar power projects, particularly by transmission lines that endanger the bird.

The Supreme Court, last April, directed power companies to lay underground cables in solar parks in Rajasthan though few companies complied with the order.

The New and Renewable Energy Ministry told the Supreme Court in December 2021 that laying underground cables were impractical and would greatly raise the cost of solar power.

India had committed to installing 1,75,000 MW of renewable energy by 2022 of which 1,00,000 MW was to be solar power. As of October 2022, 61,000 MW of solar power was installed, according to numbers presented in Parliament.