The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has proposed a slew of norms, including on laying transmission lines, in a bid to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), an issue that has left around 23,000 megawatt (MW) of solar and wind power capacities stranded.
The CEA has floated the Central Electricity Authority (Construction of Electric Lines in Great Indian Bustard Area) Regulations, 2023 and has sought responses from the public on the same. The last date for submitting comments is March 3, 2023.
The regulations, when approved, will apply to Gencos, Discoms, Central transmission utility (CTUIL), transmission licensees, State transmission utility that plan or own or operate or maintain electric lines in GIB areas, which have been defined as priority and potential areas identified by the Wildlife Institute of India.
The authority has proposed that electric lines of 33 kV and below voltage level passing through GIB area shall be underground cable, while lines above 33 kV voltage level will have to be installed overhead with bird flight diverters.
For overhead lines with a single conductor per phase passing through the GIB area, the bird flight diverters shall be placed on each phase conductor, earthwire and optical ground wire.
“In respect to overhead lines with bundled conductors having two or more conductors per phase passing through the GIB area, bird flight diverters shall be placed on each earthwire and optical ground wire. Bird flight diverters shall be placed at an interval of 10 meters in the central 80 per cent span of the overhead line,” CEA has proposed.
The authority may, by order and for reasons to be recorded in writing, relax any of provisions of these regulations in respect of the matters referred to the authority on a case to case basis, it added.
Sources said around 22,000-23,000 MW of renewable energy (RE) capacity has been impacted due to the issue concerning the endangered GIB or Godawan, the state bird of Rajasthan.
GIB in SC
In April 2021, the Supreme Court directed Gujarat and Rajasthan to convert overhead electric cables into underground lines, wherever feasible, within a year to protect the endangered GIB from extinction.
It had also set up a three-member committee to assess the feasibility laying of high-voltage underground power cables. It was in response to a PIL filed by wildlife expert MK Ranjitsinh and others.
Subsequently, in April 2022, the apex court directed Gujarat and Rajasthan governments to install bird diverters in the priority areas in order to save the GIB and Lesser Florican (LF) from high-tension power transmission lines.
Industry sources said Rajasthan and Gujarat are witnessing development of several RE projects requiring huge overhead transmission networks for power evacuation.
Underground transmission line is unviable due to high cost. Besides, power leakage from underground cables may adversely affect farming land and farmers. They have suggested installation of bird diverters is the most cost-effective solution for the energy sector.