India has made impressive progress on the ambitious plan to cover canals and their banks with solar power panels.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had sanctioned support for 50 MW of canal-top solar power projects and 50 MW capacity to be set up at canal banks. Currently, a handful of states will see some of this capacity come online; it is not clear if the Ministry would expand this program. The Ministry had announced a target to set up 100 MW of canal-top and canal-bank solar power projects at the start of this financial year.

Punjab currently leads in the capacity planned to be set up over the canals. Support has been sanctioned for 20 MW canal-top projects in the state. Two projects of 2.5 MW capacity each have so far been auctioned. Gujarat and Karnataka are each working on 10 MW canal-top capacity each.

The total cost of setting up 50 MW canal-top solar power capacity has been estimated at Rs 514 crore (US$77 million) which is around twice the cost of utility-scale solar power project on per MW basis.

Uttarakhand leads in terms of sanctioned capacity for solar power projects at canal banks. The state will install 19 MW capacity. Gujarat plans 15 MW capacity while West Bengal aims to set up 10 MW capacity. The total estimated cost of setting up this 50 MW capacity is around Rs 352 crore (US$52.7 million) which is about a third more than the cost of utility-scale solar power projects.

Following the successful implementation of canal-top solar power projects in the state of Gujarat several other states announced targets to set up similar projects. The state of Maharashtra announced a plan to set up projects on reservoirs and canals and lakes and other water bodies.

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