The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is considering a floating solar photovoltaic plant of 80 megawatt (MW) capacity in the backwater of the Middle Vaitarna dam. This floating solar plant will be part of the development of hybrid energy facilities that the BMC has been planning on the dam under the national energy security programme.
Eight years back, the civic body had proposed a hydroelectric power plant on the Middle Vaitarna dam. Subsequently, this year, it was mentioned once again in the BMC budget. Now the civic body has decided to add a floating solar power plant.
According to officials in the Water Supply Projects (WSP) department, the decision of developing a floating solar plant was made after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s suggestion while approving the hydro power project in December 2019. During the discussion, the CM suggested that apart from the hydro project, the corporation should also look at renewable energy sources.
“After this we started exploring options like setting up floating solar panels on water supplying lakes. The feasibility was checked and since at the Middle Vaitarna dam we were already setting up a hydro power project, it was found that floating solar panels can be set up there. Following this a combined tender for both power plants have been invited,” said a senior official from WSP department.
The Middle Vaitarna dam has a surface of more than 10 sq km on the backwater as well as below the dam. However, only 30 per cent of the surface can be used for setting up floating panels to avoid impact on environment like imbalance of dissolved oxygen in water.
While the hydroelectric power plant, which has been long in the planning, will have a capacity of 20 MW, the floating solar photovoltaic power plant can generate as much as 80 MW. The project will take 31 months to complete. Of the total 100 MW, the civic body has planned to augment BEST (Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport)’s power supply in the island city and its own offices. In February, while presenting the BMC budget for 2020-21, then municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi had said electricity generated from hydropower project at ‘Hinduhridaysamrat Shivsenapramukh Balasaheb Thackeray Middle Vaitarna dam’ can be used for BEST’s electric buses and lighting streetlights.
Officials said the BMC will not have to spend on the development of the project. “The company finalised for the project will develop the hybrid energy facilities and can sell the electricity to power supplying companies. The electricity will be transmitted through the energy grid of MSEDCL. The BMC will have a power agreement with the company and in return we will get rebate on electricity charges under the electricity Act. After plants are operational the calculation can be done on the ratio of the rebate,” Shirish Uchgaonkar, Chief Engineer, WSP department, told The Indian Express.
He added, “We are taking this project as a pilot and once it is successfully implemented we can plan such floating solar panels on other dams.” Apart from Middle Vaitarna there are six lakes that supply drinking water to the city.
Another official from the BMC said, “The agency finalised for the project will be responsible for operation and maintenance for 25 years. This is the first time when the municipal corporation is executing a hybrid power project. The world is shifting towards renewable energy and the BMC has already started using clean energy at Bhandup Water Complex by setting up a solar power plant,” said another official from WSP department. He added, “The process of appointing a contractor for the project has been initiated.”
Last year the state government had also planned setting up of floating solar panels in the backwater of Wardha, Bebala, Khadakpurna and Pentakli dams. Construction of the Middle Vaitarna dam was completed in 2012. The dam height is 102.4 m. Mumbai gets 455 million litre water daily from this dam.
The BMC was keen on the hydro project from the start but the state had refused to give permission and wanted to execute the project itself. Following this, in 2017 the BMC cancelled the contract of the consultant appointed for preparing a report on the project. However, last year, things started falling in place for the BMC after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government came into power. In December 2019, Thackeray approved the project of power generation at the dam by the BMC.
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