The Featured Project: World’s Largest Solar Plant
Raju D Dhole, PMP
Raju D Dhole has over 20+ years of experience in project management. He has keen interest in managing projects using Agile methods. He has rich experience in managing large muti geography projects.
The Featured Project is a new addition to Essence from Jan 2020 edition. This section aims to introduce and celebrate the excellence in project management from mega projects across the world.
Where is world’s largest Solar plant located? It’s in India, that too in Karnataka.
Pavagada Solar Park is a project covering an area of 53 square kilometers (13,000 acres) in Pavagada Taluk, Tumkur district, Karnataka. Completed in 2019, the park has a capacity of 2,050 MW and is the World’s largest solar plant. It was constructed at cost of Rs.14,800 crore (US$2.1 billion).
Why Pavagada as Location:
Pavagada was chosen as the site for the project due to several reasons. Apart from high solar radiation and availability of land, the region receives very little rainfall. Pavagada taluk is located in a semi-arid tract, atop an elevated plateau surrounded by rocky hills. The region has been declared drought hit by the Karnataka Government 54 times in the past 6 decades. The region is also scarcely populated and most of its residents are poor farmers. Many of the region’s residents have migrated to Bangalore, located about 180 km away, for economic reasons.
Land Lease model vs Outright Land Buying:
G.V. Balram, the managing director of KREDL (Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited), was born and raised in a village in Pavagada taluk. He understood that farmers in the region were reluctant to sell their land due to emotional reasons. In order to aid in the development of the region and reduce economic migration, Balram offered farmers the option to lease the land required for the project rather than purchase it outright. Landowners receive an annual payment of Rs.21,000 (US$290) per acre under the terms of the lease which is valid for 25–35 years. For the entire land required for the park, the total compensation for the entire project amounts to
Rs.23-25 crore per year. The annual payment amount will increase by 5% every 2 years.
Unique Plug and Play Model for Implementation:
KSPDCL utilized the “plug and play” model to implement the project. Under this model, the company acquired blocks of land, obtained all required government approvals for solar power generation, and then awarded contracts to solar power developers (SPDs) through auctions. Each SPD is committed to commissioning of 50 to 200MW capacity within a defined timeframe and with a committed rate for generated power. This model eliminated the dependency on one SPD and also brought in funds from multiple agencies.
Project development in solar parks has not been going as smoothly as envisioned. Projects have been auctioned in parks where there are barely any roads and incomplete infrastructure has caused developers to face delays and higher costs. Also, park fees have been steep considering the low-bid environment and incomplete infrastructure. This issue was initially faced by developers. It was overcome by close coordination with KSPDCL.
In summary: Unique compensation model and constant connect with farmers enabled smooth land acquisition. Close coordination with developers enabled timely auctions and commissioning of solar capacity. This project has become a showcase for the implementation of solar power generation projects.