SECI’s Call For EOI In Providing Land in Uttar Pradesh

Highlights :

  • Arranging land for potential developers is a key precursor to ensure both the success, and competitive costs in bidding for actual solar development.
  • SECI’s involvement is a positive sign as far as Uttar Pradesh goes.

On September 7, SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) issued a tender inviting expressions of interest (EOI) for providing land to be used for solar projects in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. The land is to be used for solar projects focused on solarising the state’s agriculture feed.

The tender follows the appointment of SECI by the Government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) as an implementing agency for selection of Solar Power Developers for Setting up of Solar Power Plant(s) for Solarization Of (Segregated) Agri-Feeders in the state.

The current tender has a last date of October 7, with bids to be opened by October 8. As the tender makes it clear, at this stage, this is by now way a commitment to buy or lease the land offered by relevant owners, just an effort by SECI to map out land availability in the state, with prices valid for 180 days, that can then be shared with potential developers keen to set up solar projects in the state. A minimum requirement of 4 acres of contiguous land, or space enough for 1 MW of solar indicates that the exercise might be a precursor to a larger tender for solar developers under component A of the KUSUM scheme, which has seen strong progress in recent months.

The exercise is critical in densely populated states like UP, Bihar and  other agriculture dominated states, as land availability is a touchy subject, and ownership issues abound. Thus, clear title and rights are essential for developers to consider projects, or even get funding. The SECI effort is just one way to take care of this key aspect for later. Transparent tenders like this could also help somewhat to take out the many middlemen who crop up to ‘speed up’ the process when a developer tries to do the land acquisition on its own. Of course, providing clean, cheaper land is not an issue limited to India, as we saw in recent moves by the US admin to lower land costs to make solar more competitive.

Developers are expected to buy the land or lease it for 30 years, as the case might be.

Tenders for land can in no way be taken as the start of solar development, as they remain just a market mapping exercise, with subsequent project bidding and allotment still a process to follow. Readers will know that UP has really lagged in solarisation, and in recent months, it has seemed to make more sense for the state to pish harder for rooftop solar over utility scale solar. Be it it’s many pilgrimage centres, or government owned buildings and land, the state really needs to focus on the low lying fruits of solarisation.

Solarisation of agricultural feeders has been a key objective of the government in recent years, but ironically, it has faced its biggest challenge in states where power is free, like Punjab. Thus, despite facing a power crisis, and some of the highest procurement costs for mostly thermal power, Punjab has made scant progress on the effort.

UP’s faces a different scale of challenge, which will not be made any easier by the decision to subsidise power partly following the pandemic for state farmers. With the state heading for polls in 2022, fingers can safely be crossed for any significant progress until after the polls.

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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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