Punjabs agriculture — the states mainstay — holds a huge potential for energy generation from agro-residues, an alternative model of diversification, besides clean energy transition by tapping solar power even in the agricultural field.
Energy experts told IANS the farmers who have leased out land for solar power generation are happier than those tilling it.
Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy R.K. Singh, in a reply in the Rajya Sabha this month, said Punjab has taken the lead by generating over 6,034 million units (MUs) of solar power in the last four years, leaving Haryana (1,059 MUs), Himachal Pradesh (104 MUs) and Union Territory Chandigarh (54 MUs) far behind.
In the current state budget, the AAP government has provision to install rooftop solar plants in government schools at a cost of Rs 100 crore.
As per official records, Punjab has tapped 15 megawatt (MW) rooftop solar capacity in the residential sector, while Haryana has tapped over 23 (MW), Chandigarh 18 MW and Himachal Pradesh just 0.78 MW.
To make the state more sufficient and efficient in the renewable energy sector, New and Renewable Energy Minister Aman Arora told IANS that the government would initiate measures on a comprehensive scale.
The focus is upon setting up projects related to various new sources of energy like solar, biomass, hydel, he added.
This month Asia’s largest compressed biogas (CBG) plant, with a total capacity of 33.23 tons per day, was commissioned in Sangrur district.
The CBG from the plant is being supplied to an Indian Oil Corporation Ltd outlet.
In addition to this, state-run Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) has allocated 42 additional CBG projects with a total capacity of 492.58 tons per day based on paddy straw and other agro-residue to find a solution to stubble burning smog, which blankets the entire northern belt of India, comprising Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh, in October-November.
In the current budget, the state has a provision of Rs 200 crore to tackle stubble burning smog.
As per the minister the 42 additional CBG projects are expected to fetch private investment of around Rs 1,200 crore, besides emission of greenhouse gases will be reduced and the rural economy will get a boost by providing additional income to farmers from agro residue.
Chief Executive PEDA Sumeet Jarangal said two more plants with a total capacity of 14.25 tons CBG per day are likely to be completed in 2022-23.
The remaining projects are expected to be commissioned within the next three years.
Besides, fermented organic manure produced from these CBG plants as a byproduct will be used for organic farming, which will further help local allied industries to flourish.
Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd is also setting up a project with a capacity 100 KL 2G ethanol per day based on paddy straw and other agro-residue in Bathinda district, which would be completed by February 2023.
This project will consume about 2 lakh tons of paddy straw per annum.
However, ringing the alarm bell researchers at Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) say climate change could impact Punjab’s renewable energy potential.
Due to its 300 plus days of annual sunshine and insolation levels that range between four and seven kilowatts per square metre, Punjab has a significant amount of solar energy potential.
The IITM’s latest study, ‘Analysis of future wind and solar potential over India using climate models’, published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Science has been authored by T.S. Anandh, Deepa Gopalakrishnan and Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay.
“Our industry must adapt to the changing climate, and our technologies must keep pace. Such predictions should not be taken as facts, but as possibilities. The efficiency of renewable energy may be impacted by climate change in Punjab and the neighbouring areas. The study emphasises the importance of being prepared for scenarios of this kind and addressing it,” said Mukhopadhyay.
The researchers carried out the study by using various state-of-the-art climate models, devised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to analyse the wind and solar projections for the renewable energy sector over the Indian subcontinent for the next 40 years.
“Our study of projections in terms of impact on renewably powered sources presents the classic case of challenges and opportunities in Punjab. For this region, solar potential is expected to decrease in the future with a substantial decrease in the monsoon and post-monsoon seasons and thus the need therefore to prepare better around it becomes important,” said Mukhopadhyay, adding that monsoons are expected to be more cloudy.
The Punjab government created a draft of its renewable energy strategy in 2019 with the intention of using 3 GW of renewable energy by 2030 to cover 21 per cent of its power needs.
However, the state government has not yet finalized this policy. The state’s previous strategy set a 2022 goal of 1,000 MW, or 1 GW, of solar power producing capacity.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy data, Punjab’s installed solar capacity rose from 405 MW in 2016 to 1,117.99 MW in 2022.
Tata Power has executed one of the world’s largest rooftop plant (16MW) at a single location at Radha Soami Satsang in Beas near Amritsar. It is set up in a single phase and produces more than 150 lakh units of electricity annually.
The researchers say in the case of wind potential, Punjab and surrounding regions show a positive trend in most of the climate models.
“For the wind projection, a positive trend is noted along Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The high winds during monsoons are expected to increase while the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon winds are going to decrease in their magnitude,” added Mukhopadhyay.
As per India’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India has set out on a mission to meet up to 50 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.
According to the IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will now require global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)