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The Morbe dam on Dhavari River in Navi Mumbai is going to house something unique: a solar panel installation big enough to generate 20 megawatt of power.
A three-year-old company that is carrying out the Rs 162 crore project claims the installation to be the largest in the world on a dam barrier, and the first in India. India already has several solar powerinstallations on top of canals, the biggest being an underconstruction 10 MW project on a Narmada canal in Gujarat, but none on a sloping wall. To make matters complicated, the Morbe gravity dam has an earthen slope, said Rahul Gupta, an IIT-Roorkee alumnus and founder of Rays Power Experts, which got the contract from the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation.
"The other side of the wall will have a huge amount of water, so the construction has to be done in a way that it doesn't puncture the wall," said the 27-year-old. "It also needs to be made sure that future maintenance is easy and the solar panels are not spoilt by salty water." The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of March next year.
"The safety of the three-kilometer-long dam is our topmost priority, but as a skilled team of 125 young engineers from IITs and NITs, we are looking for newer technical challenges," Gupta said. Solar panels will cover the entire stretch of the dam barrier. Gupta's first assignment was in 2010, the year he graduated. He helped an investor set up a 1 MW facility in his home state of Rajasthan, in his pursuit to make money to set up his own plant one day.
The following years saw Rajasthan becoming the centre of the proliferation of the solar power industry, with increasing focus of the government and private sector on clean energy. Rajasthan now has the second most installed solar capacity in the country -according to Bridge to India, a market intelligence and consultancy firm, the state had 679 MW of solar power capacity at the end of May this year, compared with leader Gujarat's 859 MW.
Gupta was one of those who benefited, and he founded Rays Power Experts in 2011. At the end of this September, the company had an order book of Rs 500 crore, and Gupta expects it to double to Rs 1,000 crore by March.
The company has orders to install 65 megawatt and is also planning to expand its own power generation capacity - it has a 3 MW facility at Gajner in Rajasthan. According to Gupta, bagging big projects in one go is not what he is looking for. "My aim is to make every individual capable to set up his own solar power project and have his own energy to use."
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