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EU-India cooperation in renewable energy

New Delhi, Dec 2 (KNN)  As a part of the EU-India Cooperation on Renewable Energy, the EU has signed a contract for € 8 mn (INR 66 crs approx) for setting up a 3 megawatt solar thermal and biomass hybrid power plant in Bihar in close association with the central and state governments.
The project, titled SCOPE BIG (Scalable CSP Optimized Power Plant Engineered with Biomass Integrated Gasification) will be set up in Dehri, in Rohtas district. Although designated 'backward', this area has the potential to grow due to abundant water supply and fertile soil but a shortfall in energy.

India has a challenging energy situation with; inter alia, a chronic shortfall in electricity production. The strategy response includes a 20,000 MW solar energy target under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), to be met, by 2022 in equal parts by solar thermal - also known as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) - and solar photovoltaic energy (SPV).

While SPV prices are falling and capacity is relatively quick to go on stream, large CSP projects (50 MW+) are finding it difficult to raise finance. Moreover, they need 7.5 acres of land and 4 cubic metres of water for every MW of capacity. Where land is available in large tracts, water is relatively scarce; and where water is available the land is suited to agriculture and therefore has a high opportunity cost.  On the other hand, CSP is easy to store and feed into the grid. The purpose of the present project will be to demonstrate the viability of CSP-biomass hybrid plants at a smaller scale.

The project will be implemented over 5 years, from Oct 2013 to Oct 2018 by a consortium of Indian and EU organisations. The consortium is headed by Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bangalore and their partners include: Thermax Limited, Bihar State Power Generation Company Limited (BSPGCL), Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN); and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Institut de Combustion Aérothermique Réactivité et Environnement ICARE-CNRS, France.

While CSTEP will contribute economic analysis, the low-cost medium temperature solar collectors are being developed by Thermax with Frauenhofer Germany and are in operation in Maharashtra and other locations. Contribution to the high-efficiency gasifier technology comes from ECN in the Netherlands and from a 250 KW Department of Science and Technology sponsored plant built by Thermax in Shive village near Pune. ICARE-CNRS will provide expertise in heat-transfer; while MNRE at the Centre and the BSPGCL at the state level will enable grid offtake, help to procure land and give policy support.

By the end of the third year the project is due to be commissioned and it is expected to produce 5.76 mn units (kwh) of electricity per year, thereafter. Studying its operation, partners will make further improvements and suggest how the pilot can be commercialised at large scale over the next two years. Detailed geospatial mapping to estimate biomass and Solar potential will be done for several states including Bihar, Kerala and Maharashtra.

An interesting feature of this project will be that chambers of commerce will coordinate industry participation in power equipment whereas panchayats and other local bodies in the project area will be encouraged to participate in selling biomass for the gasifier to ensure its viability.  The gasifier is able to take a wide variety of feedstocks allowing huge improvements in efficiency as economies of scale kick in.