New Delhi: Solar panels, rain-water harvesting, and biogas plants. These are some recommendations that the state-owned Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) has made to the Delhi government to help generate revenue for four state-run gaushalas, or cow shelters, in the city and also meet some green energy goals along the way.
With cow shelters facing a severe cash crunch, especially following the Covid pandemic, the IGL is implementing a plan that it it claims could help the city’s cow shelters generate an annual revenue of Rs 25 lakh.
IGL is a joint venture between the centrally owned GAIL, Bharat Petroleum, and the government of Delhi to supply natural gas in the Delhi-NCR region.
The project plan for the Delhi gaushalas, drawn up in collaboration with a private Delhi-based energy solutions firm, Subprime Energy Solutions, states that the aim is to set up solar panels with a capacity to produce 3-5 megawatts (MW) of power in two government-run cow shelters — Sri Krishna Gaushala in northwest Delhi’s Bawana and Dabur Hare Krishna Gaushala in southwest Delhi’s Najafgarh.
There are a total of four government-run gaushalas in Delhi, the other two being in Harewali and Rewla Khanpur.
The proposal, which ThePrint has seen, was conceptualised in 2020-2021, and a pilot at Dabur Hare Krishna started in June 2022. Here, solar panels with a combined capacity to generate about 500 Kilowatts (kW) of power have already been installed and are currently functional.
A similar, but bigger, plan is in the pipeline for the Bawana gaushala, those involved in the project said.
The estimated cost for a 3-5 MW integrated solar and biogas plant is about Rs 12 crore.
“We have completed one pilot in Najafgarh. These projects require the (Delhi) government’s permission since they’re licensed gaushalas. We’re awaiting permission to begin work on the second gaushala in Bawana,” S. K. Saini, the managing director of Sunprime Energy Solutions, told ThePrint.
Once successful, the project will be expanded to two other state-run gaushalas — Gopal Gausadan in Harewali and Manav Gausadan in Rewla Khanpur — Saini added.
ThePrint had reported last year that the four government-run cow shelters had been caught in the middle of a tussle between Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), then run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The MCD is currently under AAP control, after the party won the civic body elections last December.
Delhi’s gaushalas get a monthly aid of Rs 40 per animal. Of this, the Delhi government contributes Rs 20 while the MCD must pay the rest.
However, since the cost of upkeep is much higher — an employee at one of the gaushalas put it at Rs 103 per animal — cow shelters rely on donations and have even incurred debts to meet their daily costs.
Rakesh Singh, director of the Delhi government’s animal husbandry department, told ThePrint that IGL’s proposal was a “positive project” and that is why they had allowed it to be implemented in the first place.
“It’s a good thing that the rooftops of these cow shelters will get utilised and extra revenue will be generated in the process. Secondly, cow dung, which is generated (in shelters), is essentially a waste… Now through this project, it will be used it properly for biogas or bio-CNG. It will not just generate revenue but will be used internally as well,” he said.
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What the project is about
Saini told ThePrint that his company had approached the IGL with the proposal as a way of addressing the “pitiable” condition of gaushalas.
“The whole thought started after witnessing the pitiable condition of these shelters as they don’t get sufficient funds since most of them are run on donations, which have dipped post-Covid,” said Saini, whose company has been working in the field of energy management in India for the past three years.
According to the current proposal, IGL will fund the complete project and, in return, bring down its own electricity costs by 50 per cent, said Saini. Under the proposal, IGL will buy low-cost power from the shelters for a period of 25 years.
The proposed project is also expected to help improve infrastructure at the cow shelters by helping to dispose of cattle dung and providing a roof to help protect the animals from weather vagaries, said Saini.
In June 2022, the proposal kicked into gear with Delhi’s Minister for Environment, Development, and General Administration Gopal Rai, inaugurating a solar plant with a capacity of 500 KW at Dabur Hare Krishna Gaushala.
The pilot project, which cost Rs 5 crore to set up, was aimed at testing the waters in “developing environmentally sustainable practices” and making these places “self-sufficient” and covered about 50,000 sq. feet of the shed’s rooftop, Rai had said during the inauguration.
“The plants have been installed by IGL and a power system is also being put in. The electricity generated from it will not just use to power the shelters, but it will also be sold to BSES and we will get money in return,” Krishan Yadav, chairman of the Hare Krishna Gaushala at Dabar, told ThePrint.
According to the project proposal, the solar plant’s capacity will eventually be boosted to 3-5 MW.
The proposal for the two gaushalas also envisions establishing a biogas plant to help cumulatively generate 30-50 tonnes of biogas.
It further proposes a rainwater-harvesting system that’s integrated with solar panels. The proposal envisions a system for collecting rainwater in a drainage network built between the panels and connected to an underground storage tank.
This water-harvesting system would help, among other things, to supply water to clean the cattle housed in the shelter, states the proposal, adding that this will reduce water evaporation by about 20 per cent.
Similar plants will be set up under the project at the Sri Krishna Gaushala, so it could generate an estimate revenue of Rs 10 lakh per MW of electricity and Rs 15 lakh from biogas plants annually for 25 years, according to the proposal.
At the end of this period, the plants will be transferred from IGL to the cow shelters for operation, Saini said.
“The IGI board has ratified the plan in principle and its feasibility has been calculated,” Saini said. “We’ve written to the Lieutenant Governor (V.K. Saxena) for permission for the second plant.”
Vijayendra Dhyani, manager at the Sri Krishna Gaushala, told ThePrint that in 2018, the cow shelter had set up a smaller plant solar plant of 100KW. The plant, for which the cow shelter put in its own money, is still functional but is insufficient to meet its demand for 10,000 units of electricity a month, he said.
“We already have a solar plant that’s been running successfully. That’s why we were interested in the proposal from IGL and have been in talks with them,” Dhyani told ThePrint.
What’s in it for IGL
The IGL’s proposal says that the project will help the Delhi government realise the Delhi Solar Policy 2016. While this policy has now been replaced by the draft Delhi Solar Policy 2022, it, like its predecessor, also envisions that the national capital will meet 25 per cent of its annual electricity demand through solar energy by 2025-26.
The 2016 policy further required private power distribution companies to meet at least 75 per cent of their solar Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) within Delhi, and for government buildings to have rooftop solar panels within five years.
For context, a Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) mandates that all electricity distribution licensees should purchase or produce a minimum specified quantity of their requirements from Renewable Energy Sources.
According to IGL’s proposal, the solar panels will come under the ambit of Group/Virtual Net Metering Regulations — an arrangement for consumers who don’t have a roof for solar panels and want access to the solar net-metering facility.
The energy generated from this project, the proposal says, will be credited by a power distribution company to the consumer — which, in this case, is the IGL. This, in turn, will result in huge financial savings for IGL, which can help cover its capital investment costs, the proposal says.
“It’s helpful for IGL to set up plants in cattle shelters first because these have huge spaces,” Saini said. “Second, it (the IGL) will buy 100 per cent green energy from these cattle shelters at 50 paise per unit for 25 years, which will be financially viable,” he said.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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