Dispur lays stress on solar power in Tea estates

GUWAHATI: Solar power proves to be viable alternative energy in the tea estates in the state. Apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, solar power is cost-effective. Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL) MD Rakesh Kumar said, “We have issued vendor registration to 15 tea estates – five in Cachar, three in Hailakandi, two each in Karimganj and Sonitpur, and one each in Dibrugarh, Golaghat and Biswanath Chariali – for rooftop solar power plant installation to produce around 4,850-KW power.” All stakeholders held an interactive meeting yesterday on opportunities for solar power plants in tea estates and tea factories.

Rakesh Kumar sought suggestions from the tea industries on the ‘Draft Assam Renewable Energy Policy – 2022’. He said that solar power had prospects in the tea industries in the state by setting up solar power plants by leasing out uncultivated barren tea land, captive solar power plants, and setting up solar parks by leasing out land to the APDCL. A solar park needs around 300 bighas of land. According to the report of a study, around 87 per cent of the tea gardens in the state has uncultivated or barren lands. A solar photovoltaic panel needs around one-acre barren land. Installation of large solar panels within gardens would not impact the growth of tea plants.

Tea gardens generally get energy from electricity, gas and coal. The cost of energy from such sources is high. Solar power can, however, reduce the cost to a large extent. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. “Solar projects can be a game-changer for the tea industries. We can use barren land for solar power plants to generate revenues for tea companies. We also have factory roofs for the installation of solar plants,” said North Eastern Tea Association adviser Bidyananda Barkakoti.

A tea estate representative who took part in the meeting said, “There are issues on solar power plant installation. Therefore, we will seek guidance from the government on how to tackle those issues so that it results in a win-win situation for the tea industries and the State government.” Representatives from Tata Power, Adani Power, Roofsol, Firstgreen, financial institutions like SIDBI and Punjab National Bank, organizations of tea estates like ABITA, ATPA, BCP, NETA etc., were present at the meeting. Executive Director of Tea Board, Director of Assam Energy Development Agency, Director of Tocklai Tea Research Institute and many others from tea companies attended the meeting.

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