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NEW DELHI : The government is working on a policy on floating solar power generation, offering higher incentives to companies willing to invest in plants requiring a power generation technology that is expensive, two people in the know said. The move is expected to further boost India’s renewable energy capacity, they added.

The proposal, if approved, will reduce the need for vast stretches of land to set up solar parks. However, the technology for floating solar module projects, wherein photovoltaic solar panels are mounted on floating structures on water bodies, is expensive. “Costs for floating solar plants are high, so we must support it more in terms of subsidy. We will start something soon," a government official said, seeking anonymity.

The Union new and renewable energy ministry may make provisions for higher subsidy for the proposed floating solar policy to keep tariffs for electricity generated from the projects within manageable levels, the people cited above said.

The Centre is also in consultation with states to identify stretches of water bodies and reservoirs to set up floating solar projects. The official said the Centre is considering a plug-and-play mode, where winning bidders can set up plants fast as the infrastructure will be created at identified sites before inviting the bids.

Emailed queries to a ministry spokesperson did not elicit any response till press time.

According to the government, floating solar plants are not only efficient and environment-friendly, but also help in water conservation, reducing evaporation from areas where projects are set up, thereby helping water supplies in drought-hit areas.

The plants are more efficient as they do not overheat and are good for a country like India. The operation and maintenance cost of floating projects is however low as extra water is not required for cleaning the modules at regular intervals.

With renewable power generation projects slowing down a bit, with states even backing down from taking contracted power from renewable projects citing higher tariff, policymakers are looking at alternatives to keep costs low amid competition from other segments. “Floating solar projects have good potential in India. But such projects will require government support by way of high subsidies to be attractive for investors. As the Centre is providing 30% capital subsidy for rooftop solar, higher support may be required for floating solar projects to ensure its viability and investor interest," said Amplus Solar managing director and chief executive Sanjeev Aggarwal.

However, experts said there are challenges in the medium term for adoption of floating solar units. “Local manufacturing of floating solar panels is negligible and imports from Europe will be expensive. The policy should address this issue before we can witness big growth for such projects, more so, as supplies of solar modules from China is still limited and getting components for local assembly is becoming difficult as none of the Chinese vendors have made it to the government’s official list of suppliers, " said a top executive of a solar power generation firm, asking not to be named.

Despite its advantages, floating solar has seen very limited number of installations in the country. According to global clean energy communications and consulting firm Mercom, India has about 170MW of floating solar projects in operation compared to 57.7 GW total installed solar capacity.

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