Narmada Solar Installation

1MW in India  |  Modules - Silvantis P280   |   approx. 3600 panels PV Panels

Solar Panels, “Floating Windbreakers” Prevent Evaporation and Protect Drinking Water

“SunEdison is proud to be involved with this innovative project in India that combines solar power generation with water conservation. Through innovation, we strive to continuously exceed expectations, while making solar power an affordable reality for customers around the world.”

- Pashupathy Gopalan, Managing Director South Asia and Sub-Saharan Operations, SunEdison



Challenge: Delivering Power While Protecting Water

In India, there is an acute water shortage and over 60% of illness is attributed to unsafe drinking water. In fact, obtaining drinking water can be a 5 km walk. Though the rural economy is based on agriculture, many people rely on rain to irrigate their crops. The limited supply of water reduces crop yield and leads to hunger. The Narmada Canal is designed to relieve these conditions for the residents of Gujarat.

When the man-made Narmada Canal was developed, the goal was to provide the people of Gujarat reliable access to water, but Chief Minister Modi wanted more; he wanted to deliver reliable power to the people while conserving water by preventing evaporation. In December 2010, he challenged SunEdison’s leadership to develop a solution that would deliver renewable electricity and water. He asked the company to do something that had never been done before.

Solution: Solar Power Plant Built Over the Narmada Canal

What was originally a 250 kW pilot project became a 1 MW project because the Chief Minister was so confident in the design and the benefits it would deliver. Unlike ground-mounted systems where there is one support in place every three meters, the 16-meter spans of the Narmada Solar Energy Plant have no center support; the foundations are on the canal banks. 

The spans are built in sections referred to as blocks. There are eight blocks in total and 226 SunEdison 280 W Silvantis™ Solar Modules covering nearly 1 km of canal. At regular intervals, there is an opening to allow maintenance access to the canal. Each row of solar panels is designed with a walkway providing workers access to clean the panels.

Impact: Water Conservation and Reduced Maintenance Costs

Hot, sunny and windy environmental conditions in Gujarat cause water evaporation and promote algae growth, two major challenges to the farmers and people who rely on the water for survival. Algae clogs irrigation pumps, increasing maintenance costs and lowering productivity. Evaporation reduces the availability of water for everyone.

Evaporation is a two-stage process; heat turns water to vapor, but the wind carries it away. To keep the wind from blowing water away, SunEdison engineers created an innovative new design they refer to as “floating windbreakers.” The solution is comprised of a thick panel assembly that hangs vertically from the first and last row of the structures, connected to free-floating barrels at the bottom. When water levels increase, the barrels float upward, moving the panels above water level (so they don’t interfere with the water flow), blocking the wind and keeping the water in the canal. It is estimated that this will save seven million liters of water annually.

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