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Posted at: May 27, 2019, 1:28 PM; last updated: May 27, 2019, 3:54 PM (IST)

Maharashtra mulls floating solar panels on reservoirs to combat drought

Maharashtra mulls floating solar panels on reservoirs to combat drought
Floating solar panels help reduce evaporation. iStock

Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service
Mumbai, May 27

With Maharashtra facing its worst ever drought in more than 40 years, the state government is looking at various conservation methods, including installation of floating solar panels on reservoirs which help reduce evaporation.

”It has been proved that installation of floating solar panels help reduce evaporation of water, even as the lower temperature helps improve power generation,” an official from the Maharashtra State
Electricity Development Corporation Ltd (MSEDCL) said.

Floating solar panels have been installed in Kerala, while fixed panels have come up above the canals carrying the waters from the Narmada in Gujarat.

In Maharashtra itself, a 1000 MW floating solar power plant is in the process of being constructed on the Ujani dam in Solapur.

Proposals to install floating solar panels on other water bodies like the Irai dam were shelved due to the high cost involved, according to officials. Among other things, the floats carrying the solar panels need to be imported which inflates the cost of the project.

However, with parts of Maharashtra facing drought, officials are focusing on the conservation benefits of the floating solar panels as well, according to sources.

Floating solar power plants, officials say, would have helped reduce evaporation in the 749 minor irrigation projects in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Marathwada district.

“This year more than 350 of the reservoirs have gone completely dry,” says an official from the state irrigation department.

Estimates prepared by the Maharashtra government indicate that as much 46 TMC or 17 per cent of the live storage capacity in Marathwada’s dams are lost to evaporation every year. “Evaporation can be reduced by as much as 70 per cent by installation of solar power plants,” says an official.

Maharashtra’s power ministry estmates that the potential for solar power in the state was around 7,200 MW. However, the state government first considered opting for floating solar plants due to the hassles involved in acquiring land for big projects.

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