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India's Largest Floating Solar Power Plant Could Light UP Over 7,000 Homes

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Unlike most tech companies that have their data centers on land, Microsoft took the other route by submering its data center underwater and is the first company to do that. Although the tech giant’s idea was experimental, it turned out to be successful as it witnessed several of the servers connected to the data center had worked fine. Even the operation of the cloud worked out fine without any human intervention. Likewise, Andhra Pradesh also seems to be taking a different route around its solar power plants and no it did not submerge them underwater.

Rather, the state put its solar power plant on top of water and is now regarded as India’s largest solar power plant floating at its thermal plant on Ramagundam in Peddapalli district in Telangana. This solar power plant is India’s largest and is built by the largest power producer of the country, NTPC. This floating solar power plant is the country’s largest one that boasts an installed capacity of 447MW that the commissioning of its entire capacity would take around two years. Except for a 230MW ground-mounted solar power plant in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi district, the remaining 217MW capacity was scheduled to be operational this year.

But why Andhra Pradesh? The answer is simple, for Telangana is one of just a few states and union territories on track to reach their 2022 renewable energy goals. Also, the government there is also encouraging the deployment of drones for COVID-19 vaccines and other medicine delivery, particularly to those dwelling in the remotest parts of the state. Besides, the state is said to be a major renewable energy (RE) generator, with an installed RE capacity of 8,792 megawatts (MW).

Currently BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited) is commissioning the floating power plant that stretches up to 100 acres and the costs are still under wraps. While it’s at it, BHEL plans on designing, engineering, procuring and constructing it which has been executed by the recently formed solar power division. Moreover, the solar power plant seems to carry a complex module array developed for the first time in India.

Floating solar power plants are already regarded as a game changer in India's desire to produce 450 GW (gigawatts) of renewable energy capacity due to its inherent benefits over onland projects, which require enormous continuous expanses of non-farming, non-forest land.

How it Floats Different from Typical Land Solar Power Plants
In addition to producing clean energy, by clubbing 60 GW of renewable energy the project will prevent water evaporation by shading the covered area. Due to the cooling effect, it will also have a higher yield than traditional ground-mounted projects. In turn generating sufficient electricity to more than 7,000 homes

There’s more to it, as these homes will not only benefit from the plant that’s bringing down about 46,000 tonnes of CO2, but 1,364 million litres of water as well. Another aspect that the plant is also proving to be cost-effective unlike the ones on land.

Floating solar power plants are already regarded as a game changer in India's desire to produce 450 GW (gigawatts) of renewable energy capacity due to its inherent benefits over onland projects, which require enormous continuous expanses of non-farming, non-forest land.

All platform structures and other equipment have been made corrosion resistant due to the project site's coastal position, which results in significant corrosion.

In fact, the plant is also the first to be set under the 2018 flexibilization scheme that enables generators to supply power from any sources based on plant efficiency.

The place where it floats, Simhadri Station, will be the first to have an open sea import from the Bay of Bengal that has been operational for over 20 years.

Also, the plant is said to be one among the missions of NTPC which plans to become green by 2032.

The plant spans across 75 acres in a RW reservoir and is supported by a one-of-a-kind anchoring system. More than one lakh solar PV modules can be used to power the floating solar farm. Anchoring is a method of installing floating solar panels. The type of anchoring is determined by a number of factors, including site configuration and conditions, soil composition, accessible area surrounding the reservoir, wind loads, and water changes. The floating solar power plant's environmental impact is also a crucial consideration.

Andhra Pradesh: A Major Producer of Renewable Energy
Until last year, the state had an installed RE capacity of roughly 8,421 MW. Wind energy projects accounted for 4,084 MW of the 8,534 MW total capacity, followed by solar energy projects with 3,858 MW installed capacity.

Rumors have it that total solar capacity commissioned up until 2019-20 was roughly 3,522 MW. The total capacity of solar and wind projects that were completed in 2020-21 was 339.45 MW.

Small hydro projects in the state added a total of 103 MW capacity this year, while biomass, biomass energy cogeneration, and bagasse projects added a total of 443 MW to the state's renewable energy capacity. Furthermore, the combined capacity of municipal solid trash and industrial garbage was 47 MW.

It’s said that the state's total renewable energy capacity commissioned up until 2019-20 was 8,194 MW.

The state government announced its renewable energy export strategy for solar, wind, and wind-solar hybrid projects last year. The state was given the ability to use potential land for setting up projects to export power to other states, attracting investments and generating cash in the process.

Feasibility Reports for Solar Power Plant Projects Under Renewable Energy Export Policy
Andhra Pradesh, as part of its renewable energy export policy announced last year, released feasibility reports for five project sites for the construction of ultra-mega solar power parks.

Under its new policy, it had identified seven such sites with a total capacity of 17,800 megawatts (MW). Kadiri, Obuladevucheruvu (ODC), Ralla Anantapur, Badvel, Kalasapadu, Owk, and Kolimigundla were among those sites.

Project reports for 4,000 MW solar parks at Kadiri, 2,400 MW each at ODC and Ralla Anantapur, 1,400 MW at Badvel, and 2,000 MW at Kalasapadu have been released.

Solar, wind, and wind-solar hybrid projects in the state are all covered by the RE export policy. The strategy intends to take advantage of the vast untapped potential as well as the availability of land to encourage investors to participate in renewable energy projects for the purpose of energy export.

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