The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) may have got too ambitious with its plans to make the Lutyens’ Zone run completely on renewable energy. One of the highlights of the NDMC’s budget presented in January by its chairman Naresh Kumar was a ‘solar road’ pilot project. But the trial of the project is not working out as planned, according to officials who are implementing it.
Costing around Rs15 lakh, the NDMC has started the pilot project on public-private partnership (PPP) model. As per the pilot project, trial on a 380-square meter stretch inside the NDMC headquarters, with 704 solar panels installed underneath glass-paved roads, is underway. A major problem being faced is of safety as the current experiment shows the cars are skidding off the glass surface.
The panels also have issues of leakage of water and dirt and muck sticking under them, which if not cleaned, will not generate energy, officials said. “The project has definitely failed to produce the desired results. Announcements were made without even conducting a feasibility test for such a project. The ‘solar road’ project is not only a far-fetched idea for Indian roads but also a very costly affair. Roads in India are not designed like they are done in developed countries,” said an official in the civil engineering (roads) department of the NDMC.
Some countries like France, the Netherlands and China have experimented with solar roads — with transparent concrete/asphalt being used instead of tempered glass — but due to the staggering costs involved, such experiments have remained limited to just one of two small stretches of roads. Despite the problems being faced in the NDMC trial, experts in the field believe the project can take a right direction if there is proper and strict implementation on the ground.
“Any new project is bound to have hiccups. Solar-powered infrastructural concepts are getting success in many areas across the country, which can be the case here as well provided it is implemented after being carefully thought out,” said PK Sarkar, urban infrastructure planning expert. “We should not leave any stone unturned (to make the project a success). Although there has been international criticism regarding this solar road project, but an attempt should be made.”