Odisha intends to make the seaside temple town entirely solar-powered and to make it one of the country's first zero-emission townships or towns. If you visit the Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha's Puri district, in late 2021 or after the Covid-induced lockdown is lifted, you may see visible alterations.
"We appreciate Konark's beauty and tranquil atmosphere. This year, the city erected solar lighting on main thoroughfares, drinking water kiosks, and the guide informed us that the Odisha government intends to power the Sun Temple entirely with solar energy," Suman explained.
Konark, which is a renowned tourist destination in India due to the Sun Temple, would be the first model town in Odisha to transition from grid to green energy.
While Odisha possesses a sizable supply of power-grade thermal coal in the Talcher and Ib valleys, the state is keen to minimise its reliance on traditional energy sources and increase its reliance on renewable energy.
In this regard, the government has issued a policy directive.
By the end of 2022, the state intends to generate 2,750 megawatts (MW) of electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, small hydro, and waste-to-energy (WTE).
Among them, the state intends to create 2,200 MW of solar energy, with a portion of it used to power the Sun Temple and Konark town.
Towards Net Zero
The conversion of Konark to renewable energy is part of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy's ambitious goal (MNRE).
The Rs 25-crore plan aims to ensure that solar energy meets all of Konark Temple's and town's energy needs. Another proposal is the Modhera Sun Temple in Gujarat.
The work at Konark is being carried out with the state government's full participation. The project is being implemented by OREDA (Odisha Renewable Energy Development Body), a nodal agency of the Odisha government. OREDA intends to transform Konark into a zero-emission city by December 2022.
"We intend to make Konark a 100 percent solar town and also to make it one of India's first few zero emission cities or towns," said Ashok K Choudhury, deputy director of OREDA.
The majority of the 300 kilowatt (KW) solar panel installation in and around Konark has been completed. This includes the following:
50 streetlights powered by solar energy
-40 point-of-sale dispensers of drinking water
-20 battery-powered vehicles equipped with charging stations
-A 50 kW solar energy system has been erected near the shrine to provide illumination.
-12 government institutions, including schools, hospitals, and offices, have rooftop solar panels.
These solar power plants will meet Konark's energy requirements. "Once that is accomplished, there will be a noticeable shift in Konark's reliance on grid electricity to off-grid or solar," Paresh Parida, an employee of Aditi Solar, a Hyderabad-based business that is responsible for all renewable energy installation work in Konark, stated.
The Konark Notified Area Council (NAC) covers an area of approximately 23 square kilometres and is comprised of seven villages and thirteen wards, with a total population of approximately 26,000. However, the switch to renewable energy is limited to Konark.
"To begin mitigating emissions, we intend to introduce 20 battery-electric vehicles." Solarisation will also help minimise electricity usage and financial burden," Akriti Goenka, executive officer of Konark NAC, explained.
However, an employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that the town's car drivers' union is opposed to the adoption of battery-powered automobiles. They have sent a memorandum to the National Advisory Committee.
"By switching from grid to solar energy, the Sun Temple's electricity consumption will be reduced. Solar energy revenue will be used to offset expenditure on other temple construction projects," Arun Mallick, superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), stated.
Konark, together with comparable investments in other locations, will assist the government in meeting its objective of 2,750 MW by the end of 2022.
According to Odisha Economic Survey 2020-21, the expected demand for electricity in the state has been much less than the installed capacity for several years.
The 2016 renewable energy policy aims to increase renewable energy generation, with a particular emphasis on solar energy. By the end of 2022, Odisha intends to generate 2,200 megawatts of solar energy, 200 megawatts of wind energy, 180 megawatts of biomass energy, 150 megawatts of small hydropower energy, and 20 megawatts of waste to energy energy.
According to experts, the state may or may not meet its aim by the end of 2022. Odisha, on the other hand, is the first state in the country to integrate climate change in its 2020-21 budget.
"There is no special programme established in the climate budget for renewable energy development activity," said Pravas Mishra, an economist and budget expert. The Odisha government has also established the Odisha Renewable Energy Development Fund, although funding for 2020-21 and 2021-22 is not included in the budget. There is no mention of aid to the Green Energy Development Corp Ltd. As a result, we cannot say if it contributes directly to green or renewable energy."
"While the government has allotted funding to the Biju Gramya Jyoti Yojana (a rural electrification initiative), there is no indication of how much of that money would be spent on renewable energy," he continued. We can only describe it as a hypothetical allocation. The government will need to allocate cash for targeted renewable energy programmes in order to meet the aim."
Odisha confronts numerous obstacles in establishing massive solar power projects. The state has a coastline of 480 kilometres and is prone to cyclones. It has met ten cyclones in 22 years, including Super Cyclone, Phailin, Hudhud, Titli, Amphan, and Fani.
Apart from this, land acquisition is a significant hurdle in the construction of solar power facilities. While coastal areas are prone to cyclones, certain portions of Odisha have high forest cover, while land is expensive in densely populated areas.
"We are unable to establish a solar plant in Konark for a variety of reasons," OREDA's Ashok Choudhury explained. The town is prone to cyclones, receives low sun insolation, experiences excessive humidity, and suffers from severe corrosion. All of these factors conspired against the development of a solar power plant in this location. As a result, acquiring 50 acres of land for the purpose of establishing a solar plant proved difficult for us".
"Because we couldn't locate a suitable location in Konark, we opted to establish the solar plant in Junagarh, Kalahandi district, 450 kilometres away." he added. We have already issued a work order, and the company will complete the installation within a year."
The proposed solar power facility in Junagarh, Kalahandi, will supply electricity to the grid. This energy will be offset or balanced by energy consumed in Konark from adjacent power plants.
"This is referred to as book adjustment, or the balance of consumption and production of renewable energy," Choudhury explained. This occurs on a global scale. The goal of Net Zero is that if I generate as much energy elsewhere as I consume here, I will achieve Net Zero status."
Although the people of Dumberbahal and Eknaguda in Junagarh, where the plant is proposed, protested the idea, sources stated the installation of solar plants had begun.
OREDA has proposed exploring reservoirs and bodies of water for the purpose of establishing floating solar power plants in order to address these ongoing land acquisition challenges.
"We have selected Hirakud, Indrabati, and Rengali as significant reservoirs for floating solar power plants, which will alleviate future land acquisition concerns," Choudhury explained.
There are several difficult-to-reach and remote villages / habitations in the state where grid-connected energy has not yet reached, and it will be cost-effective to bring it there.
Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) standalone systems are being offered to these households to brighten their homes.
"These homes are covered by the Government of India's Soubhagya and DDUGJY (Deen Dayal Upadhayay Grama Jyoti Yojana) schemes," he explained.
"The need for energy from the grassroots must be answered by solar energy," Choudhury continued. Solar is unlike coal or hydro in that it is ubiquitous and decentralised in nature. If generation and consumption are decentralised, the requirements of people in the most remote locations will be met."