The cost of solar power is half that of having diesel generation sets the first year itself plus it is clean. Tata Steel’s VP (Raw Materials) Rajeev Singhal, says the company plans to expand to other coal mines. He explains to SustainabilityNext the logic of solar power and Tata Steel’s commitment to clean energy
What is Tata Steel’s Power consumption and what difference does the 3 MW solar plant make?
The power consumption of Noamundi Iron Mine is around 500 lakh unit per annum and 3 MW solar will generate about 45 lakh unit per annum. Our vision at Tata Steel is to strike a balance between economic as well as ecological and societal value.
In our continuous efforts to integrate sustainability into our business practices, the 3 MW solar plant at Noamundi aims to address issues related to climate change and increasing demand for natural resources as part of our captive use at mining locations. This is the 1st Solar Power Plant in any iron ore mine in the country and aims at reducing CO2 emissions by about 3000 tonnes per annum. The setting up of a solar power unit in Noamundi gives the place a reliable source of power and obviates the need to use polluting diesel generators. This in turn will help Tata Steel move in a direction which will lead to an increased competitive advantage, increased operational efficiency and enhanced profits in the long run.
What are the challenges of having solar in iron ore mines – aren’t particulate deposits on the panels a big problem? How do you address that situation?
Our 3 MW solar power plant is situated in a high elevated mined-out area, where afforestation has been done, so dust accumulation is very less. We are maintaining the solar panels by water jets at regular intervals.
Noamundi receives good solar irradiance, has vast, flat barren swathes of reclaimed land and a rain harvesting system to make water available for periodic cleansing — an apt location for a solar project.
We have some processes in place which ensure that we provide a clean energy solution such as a rainwater harvesting system which has been set up for module cleaning activities to serve as make-up water and minimize module cleaning water requirement. Horticulture is being done at the site that adds to the aesthetic value and reduces cleaning water requirement by binding the loose top soil. The selected site has a potential of 4.5 MW solar power generation.
Is this one way of acquiring carbon credits?
The growing demand for energy, the fast depletion of conventional energy resources and growing concern over climate change arising out of increasing carbon emissions, have all increased the focus on alternate sources of energy. Having said that, Solar PV projects being one of the renewable sources of energy are environment friendly and help in reducing GHG emissions that would have otherwise occurred due to the fossil fuel based power generation.
What’s Tata Steel’s mid and long-term plan for solar energy?
In line with our efforts towards a more sustainable and inclusive environment and with Tata Steel being a sole buyer of all electricity at a contracted tariff, this partnership demonstrates our commitment to climate action and voice support for supporting a strong outcome at COP21. Furthermore, the solar power plant will help meet our current RPO targets, reduce our long-term financial outflow on purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates and can be scaled up in the future as RPO requirement increases.
We at Tata Steel are also working for expanding our solar power footprint to other operational locations like Joda Iron Ore Mine in Odisha, Sukinda, Kalinganagar, Jharia and West Bokaro. Such investments on renewable energy sources for captive usage make sense for the business and the environment.
This project propels Tata Steel into a new era of global co-operation on climate change and we hope that it will serve as a model for others to emulate.
What does it cost – per unit – compared to coal?
For us, the alternative was to use DG set which used to cost us Rs 14 per unit, whereas our solar power cost for the first year is Rs.7 per unit.