Solar to light up McLeod Russel India Limited’s tea estate in Assam
Renewal energy source makes its inroads in the tea industry. Tea estates in Assam have started experiment with solar power. Tea gardens in Assam face erratic power supply from the grid. Only 60 per cent of total electricity requirement is supplied by the state run power sector utility, for the remaining 40 per cent tea estates have to rely on gensets. Vikram Solar, the manufactures photovoltaic (PV) solar modules has tied up with McLeod Russel India Limited for the execution of 100 Kw Off-Grid Solar Power Project at Attareekhat Tea Estate, Tangla, Assam. The project is expected to become operational by April this year. This solar system with battery back-up has received 30 per cent subsidy from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India. The company is in talks with various tea estates in Assam and West Bengal for installing solar facility. K.K. Baheti, chief financial officer of Mcleod Russel India Ltd told ET, "We are doing solar project in one of the tea gardens and will see how this shapes up."
Gyanesh Chaudhary, Managing Director & CEO, Vikram Solar stated, "By setting up this plant with McLeod Russel, Vikram Solar has expressed its confidence in bringing Solar Power to north-east India and eradicate the myth that north-east India is not suitable for Solar Power plants." He added, "Presently, most of the tea estates in and around Assam and North Eastern parts of India are having a problem with erratic grid electricity supply. Solar Power, except its upfront capital investment and scheduled maintenance cost is almost free and is a very good economic and eco friendly alternative of the conventional energy."
Chaudhary added, "We are in talks with various other tea estates in West Bengal, Assam. A number of companies have also shown keen interest to use Solar Power. And success of the first Installation will be crucial for further growth of Solar Energy in this part of our country." He added during the rainy season, solar system in general doesn't work to its full potential. But the available solar radiation for the rest of the year is more than enough to generate adequate solar power. The solar system will surely work in the north eastern parts of India. Rajeev Takru, Director, McLeod Russel India Limited, stated, "It is our first initiative with Solar Power in the Tea Estates and if it works well, it could open an alternative source of stable power supply, which is vital to the industry."
Power generated from gensets in the tea estates are levied 10 paise duty per unit. Rajiv Yadav CMD of Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL) said, "Assam comes under the medium radiation level, which means solar is workable. " We supply per unit power at Rs 5.70 per unit to tea estates however in gensets per unit cost comes to Rs 17. Assam's per-capita power consumption in Assam at a meager 290 kilowatt hour (KWh) is far below national average of 890 KWh per capita." Assam has around 800 big tea estates around one lakh small tea growers producing roughly 618 million kgs annually.