Adani Greens Kamuthi Project Turns Water Positive, Signals The Future for Large Projects

The announcement of the groups most prestigious and early large project turning water positive will set a benchmark for almost all future projects to follow

Adani Green Energy’s 648 megawatt Kamuthi Solar plant in Tamil Nadu, has been declared the first of its scale to be water positive. The announcement is a welcome step by large developers to set a benchmark for the broader industry to emulate . AGEL — the world’s largest solar power developer by total projects — has a portfolio of over 14,815 MW of projects at various stages of development.

Independent global assessment and certification agency DNV has issued the certification following an audit conducted on the plant’s water management in 2020-21.

Being water positive signifies that the project is conserving more  water that that consumed to operate the solar plant. As one of the worlds largest single location solar plants, the  Kamuthi project is spread over 2500 acres, and is located in a relatively dry part of the state of Tamil Nadu.

According to the DNV certification, the plant created a water credit of 52,982 m3 (cubic metre) which is more than its water consumption for the year 2020-21. The company became water positive bydesilting of community ponds and development of additional rainwater harvesting potential in the neighbouring villages of Sengappadai, Pudukottai and Thathakulam.

“This initiative has resulted in substantial increase in the storage capacity of water bodies. Besides the intervention on the grounds, we also introduced robotic solar modules cleaning technology to reduce water usage to a significant extent,” said an AGEL spokesperson. AGEL is aiming to be in the top 10 companies of the world in ESG Benchmarking of Electric Utility Companies by 2022.

These measures were introduced in addition to a robust water conservation framework already in practice at the site. According to this framework, the company optimised its water requirement under ISO 14001, through various initiatives including robotic cleaning of solar panels, rainwater harvesting and use of drips among others.

For large utility solar parks, the search for high irradiance and clear area frequently leads to locations in dry landscapes, and water use had been flagged a major challenge very early on. With cleaning technologies evolving to become  waterless, the next stage in the evolution is to actually support water conservation by ensuring the right practices, be it water harvesting or supporting surrounding areas with conservation and access. Massive planned parks like the 41 GW Kutch project have already drawn protests regarding their environmental impact. Firms will need to take voluntary initiatives to manage the blowback, even as the government has waived many environmental norms for renewable energy. AGEL’s own project in Rajasthan was under the HC lens last year.

The ultimate target of course remains allowing the land to be used for at least some other productive activity, be it agriculture, grazing or more. That effort will gain increasing focus as parks seek to balance the need to stay closer to transmission grids versus using barren lands.

Other major challenges, like recycling of solar equipment is also not far off, and we expect strong progress to be made there in the coming years, in time to tackle the flood of obsolete equipment that will start entering the market from the pre 2010 plants.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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