KASARGOD: In a big jolt to Kerala’s ambitious energy plans, the government -- under pressure from CPM-ruled panchayats -- has scaled down the solar project in Kasargod to 50MW from the targeted 200MW. “No new land will be made available for the project,” Revenue Minister E Chandrasekhran told Express. The decision will be a “considerable embarrassment” for the state government as the “project involves commitment given to the Central government,”according to top officials.
Renewable Power Corporation of Kerala Limited (RPCKL) -- the joint venture between Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and central PSU Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECIL) -- started generating 50MW from the first park at Ambalathumkara in Madikai panchayat last month. On Thursday, the cabinet decided to transfer 250 acres, the site of the park at Ambalathumkara, to RPCKL. “The JV will get no more land in Kasargod for solar park,” said the minister.
Last month Express had reported the project was under clouds because of stiff opposition from CPM-controlled panchayats such as Kinanur-Karinthalam and Madikai. “If the district is covered with solar panels, where is the space for other developmental projects?” he said. He said the project was an initiative of the UDF government, but now was facing stiff opposition from the people.
But officials said the KSEB had painstakingly surveyed the land scattered over the four panchayats in two months, and demarcated the plots for the projects.
As recently as September, 2016, the LDF government transferred 169 acres in Karinthalam and 430 acres in Paivalike to KSEB for the project. “There is government land available in Karinthalam, if only they take efforts to identify them,” said a tahsildar. The previous government decided to generate 200MW from 1,086 acres spread over three sectors: Ambalathumkara in Madikai panchayat; Paivalike and Meeja panchayats; and Kinanur-Karinthalam panchayat.
“We’ve been waiting for the rest of the 836 acres to start work on the remaining 150MW for the past one year,” said chief executive officer of RPCKL E O Augustine Thomas. He said 200MW from 1,000 acres could meet the day-time power requirements of entire Kannur and Kasargod districts.
Contrary to the minister’s stance, the Chief Secretary (CS) in an October 13 meeting decided to constitute a committee headed by District Collector, CEO of RPCKL and a high-ranking officers of the Agriculture Department to recce for land in Cheemeni for the 200MW solar park and a gas-based power plant. In a meeting of the same committee in August, the CS said: “Since this project involves commitments given by the state government to the Centre and PSUs, the delay is causing considerable embarrassment to the state government”.