India's major roads may double up as solar highways, if an
innovative proposal by some scientists gets the government's
approval. The proposal is the brainchild of scientists at the
Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) in the
In a paper just published in the International Journal of Energy,
Environment and Engineering, the scientists say highways can be
used to generate solar power, if a roof of solar panels was laid
over them, across the length of the roads.
The photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into
electricity is normally spread out on land. "While the price of PV
panels is falling day by day, the price of land and its
availability are constraints in the development of solar power,
especially in India," says Tirumalachetty Harinarayana, director
of GERMI and one of the authors of the paper.
"Our proposal overcomes this obstacle by using the space over the
highways for placing the PV panels," Harinarayana told IANS. "This
space can contribute to energy generation without extra land
The proposal by Harinarayana and co-worker Pragya Sharma is based
on case studies they carried out on two highways passing through
Gujarat, using computer simulation.
From their computations, they estimate that a PV roof cover over
the four-lane 205 km-long Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate
104 MW of power while the Ahmedabad-Vadodara national highway, 93
km long, can generate 61 MW of electricity.
"We can suggest that the same concept can be extended for use on
the 52,584-kilometre long national and state highways in India
with four lanes or more," the scientists said.
The four-lane 5,839-km long Golden Quadrilateral Highway, for
example, connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, can
potentially generate 4,418 MW of power while the
North-South-East-West Corridor highway of 7,300 km connecting
Srinagar, Kanyakumari, Porbandar and Silchar has 5,524 MW capacity
of power generation.
"If having solar panel roof over the national highways proves
successful, one can think of using all our rail network as well
for solar energy generation," Harinarayana said.
The GERMI scientists claim that apart from producing power, the
solar highway concept, if implemented, can generate jobs for both
skilled and unskilled people.
"Additionally, the shade provided by the over-head solar panels
would result in improved vehicle efficiency and longer tyre life,
besides reduction in road maintenance costs," Harinarayana said.
"Another benefit of having a roof over the highways is rainwater
harvesting at selected locations," he said.
The scientists point out that the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission (JNSM)
launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Jan 2010 could not
reach its target of 1,200 MW electricity by March 2013 due to
"Again, there is no roadmap or clear plan to reach its 20 GW
target by 2022," said Harinarayana. He said the solar highway
concept has the potential for large-scale generation of
electricity with grid connectivity in short time.
"This requires one-time investment for constructing a simple
elevated structure covering the national highways," he said.
According to Harinarayana, Gujarat state is ideally suited to take
a lead in implementing the proposal. The state, he said, has
already made great strides in harnessing sunlight by establishing
a large solar park near Charanka in the Kutch region, launching
the five-MW solar roof top programme in Gandhinagar, and also
erection of solar panels on a water canal.
He said GERMI would be ready to demonstrate the feasibility of the
solar highway through a 1-MW pilot scale project once the
government gives approval.
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)