Solar trees rooted in Sector III

One of the solar trees in LA Block, with panels looking up at the sky from its “branches”. Pictures by Saradindu Chaudhury

Salt Lake got its first Sourasree, the solar tree, last Friday when state power minister Sovandeb Chatterjee inaugurated two such structures on the open roadside space in front of the office of the West Bengal Power Development Corporation located in LA Block of Sector III. The building already generates 40 kilowatt solar on its roof.

State power secretary Sunil Gupta and chairman cum managing director Santanu Basu accompanied the minister at the inauguration.

Solar tree is an installation akin to a tree with solar panels fixed at various points such that the panels receive maximum sunshine and generate electricity, which, in turn, is passed on to an electric grid. Though the installation of solar trees is quite common in other countries it is not common in India. Keoratala burning ghat has one in Calcutta.

“This first solar tree in Salt Lake is a kind of a pilot project and my department is ready to support if other organisations in Salt Lake would like to put up solar trees in their complexes,” minister Chatterjee told The Telegraph Salt Lake.

The minister said that he would like to replicate the model if found viable, as otherwise setting up solar panels is turning out to be problematic due to space constraints.

The Telegraph Salt Lake found that the installed solar trees had hardly taken 100sq ft each with 10 branches hanging from one tree, each holding a solar panel. “Every panel generates about 320 watt, which means 3.2 kilowatt in each tree and 6.4 kilowatt taking two trees together. Once generated, the electricity is passed on to the grid which is adjusted against our office’s total consumption through net metering,” explained a technocrat associated with the project.

According to sources, the total cost of the project is about 8.5 lakh. The project is expected to produce 7,300 units, which may generate financial revenue of around Rs 50,000. The solar trees have been set up by Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur.

“Not only solar trees, we are trying out various other models to promote solar and other non conventional energy. We are pushing Alo Shree, the project to promote rooftop solar panels, as well as floating solar panels in areas like Sagardighi in Murshidabad,” shared minister.

Minister Sovandeb Chatterjee inaugurates the facility on Friday

“This kind of demonstration projects are fine in terms of promoting solar power but the actual success will depend on the scale at which common people will be setting up solar devices within their households,” stated an expert, adding that state government’s policy of not allowing rooftop solar panels less than 5 kilowatt has been the major deterrent in promoting rooftop solar projects in the state so far. The expert pointed out that many cities in India allow less than 5 kilowatt rooftop solar panels.

“Salt Lake, with spacious office spaces, has a lot of potential in terms of generating solar power and the state government should be flexible to maximise the advantage,” pointed out another.


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