After setting up the innovative canal solar power projects, India’s Gujarat state may also set up the first solar roof on road project. The proposal is to cover major roads and highways with elevated platforms which will be fitted with solar modules.
Scientists at the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) have proposed a pilot solar power project at a Gujarat state highway. Through computer simulation the scientists believe that a solar roof cover on the 205 kilometre (km) Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate 104 megawatts (MW).
The scientists have stimulated the solar power generation potential for other major state and national highways as well:
- 93 km Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway has a potential of 61 MW solar power
- 5,839 km Golden Quadrilateral Highway that connects the four Indian metropolitan cities can host 4,418 MW through solar roof cover
- 7,300 km North-South-East-West Corridor highway which runs across the length and breadth of India can be covered with 5,524 MW of solar power capacity
India plans to achieve 22,000 MW of installed solar power capacity. While the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules remains relatively low, the price of land has not come down as much and might not come down at all in the future as it is a highly limited and contentious resource in India. Thus, the scientists at GERMI have proposed that the space above the vast network of roads in the country be used for solar power generation. They also propose that such a project works well if it could be extended to the country’s railway network too.
The benefits of such a project could be enormous. Project developers in Gujarat and neighbouring Rajasthan have faced problems commissioning their projects due to lack of transmission lines. Most of the transmission lines in India are located parallel to the road network, thus, the problem of transmission and the cost involved would reduce significantly. The cost of land would also be relatively minimal.
A measure of the power generated could be used for lighting the roads as well as supplying power to other infrastructure located along the highways. Areas along the highways are also major centres of industrial activity. Such industries have very high electricity demand and part of it could be met through solar roofs over nearby roads. Localised power consumption would this reduce transmission loss and improve efficiency.
The scientists note that the elevated structures that would support the solar PV modules would also help in rainwater harvesting. If applied to the railway network such projects could supply power to the trains and may help reduce the dependence of Indian Railways on diesel.