Energy Dialogue with RSN
Compliances and Penalties for setting up a Solar Power Plant
Keywords: Electricity, Solar, Power, Plant, India, Land, Agricultural
Legal Compliances for Solar Power Plants

Approximately five acres of land is required for setting up a 1MW capacity solar power plant. In contrast to this, only 1.2 acres of land is required to set 1MW capacity thermal plant. In a country like India, which is expected to be the world’s most populous country by the end of the decade, diverting agricultural land is a challenging preposition. Hence, it can safely be said that land is the biggest challenge for the growth of solar industry. Innovative models of floating solar, off- shore solar, canal-top solar etc. have to be explored besides resolving issues relating to land laws. It is important to mention that land, under the Constitution of India, is a State-subject. Hence, reforms across India will be required by the State Governments for quick adopted and compliance for setting-up solar power plants. For mitigating above compliance challenges, various state governments have come up with solar policies wherein land conversion compliances and registration charges have been waived off to encourage the sector.

Agro-PV and Land Laws in India

Penalties for using any land without conversion

An agricultural land needs to be converted to non-agricultural land to conduct any activity which is otherwise not permissible on an agricultural land. There is a procedure laid down for each State for land conversion, in violation of which several penalties are imposed upon the owner/ tenant of an agricultural land performing non-agricultural activities without proper conversion. The Land Revenue Code or the Land Reforms Act has imposed penalties on performing non- authorized activities through non-conversion. The penalties vary from State to State. In several states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, the fine for converting agricultural land into non – agricultural land and conducting such activities without permission is 50% of the conversion fees or the total amount payable whereas in Rajasthan it is 4 times the conversion charges. In Gujarat, the occupant is evicted from the land and fine is imposed as directed by the Collector. In Karnataka & West Bengal the fine extending up to Rs. 1000 is imposed and a punishment is imposed of maximum of 3 years as an option in the state of West Bengal. In Maharashtra, 40 times the non-agricultural assessment is charged. In Arunachal Pradesh, it is 25% of the premium charges whereas in Assam it is 2 times the Reclassification Premium.

On analysing all the State Land Acts, we are of the view that, as it is illegal to conduct activities which are unauthorized for non-conversion, the owner or the tenant has to pay a penalty and, in some cases, can also be imprisoned for a minimum of 3 years.

After analysing all the State laws including Land Laws and all the Regulations enumerated under the Electricity laws of each State, moreover after exploring all the possibilities to get a positive approach towards the issue at hand, it can be concluded in simple easy steps which is summarized below:

  1. The Central and State laws on electricity do not mention the type of land i.e., “agricultural” or “non-agricultural” on which a solar PV or anything similar of that can be installed or be operated from.
  2. The Regulations provided under the purview of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission as well as the State Electricity Regulatory Commission has limited power. Moreover, these several Regulations do not mention about the type of land i.e., “agricultural” or “non- agricultural”.
  3. The Land laws such as Land Revenue Code, Land Reforms Act of different States provide the definition of “agricultural” or “non-agricultural”. To put it in a precise manner, any land which is to be used for any non-agricultural purpose, including Agro-PV is to be on a non- agricultural land and any agricultural activity should be done only on an agricultural land.
  4. Lastly, if any act is done against the provisions listed in the land laws, i.e., if any activity is done in breach of the Code. Several liabilities will be incurred and penalty is to be paid, in some cases possession of the land is taken over (Confiscated) by the Government.
Hence, under Indian Legal Framework, satisfying the issue at hand will be illegal and against the law of the State and the country. It is quite justifying that installation of photovoltaic panel on agricultural crops generates grater shading; the typical agricultural crops are not affected by the implementation of an Agro-photovoltaic system, since the increase of humidity under the panels can be a positive factor, since that could decrease in loss of water present in the soil. This innovation will also provide efficient use of soil, advantages for crops, generation of energy and agricultural products will add value.

The authorities concerned might address this issue in the coming future and look into all the benefits in adopting this system. The States need to consider that this Agro PV will be for a greater good and will benefit the weaker sections of the society especially farmers who are working day and night to harvest crops for selling them in order to earn their daily living. This system of Agro PV will ease the life of farmers through which, not only they can double their income but also ease their life using the solar panels.

It is believed that the State authorities can be approached and in future, the State laws with regard to the definition of land could be amended for using of Agro Photovoltaic method and therefore could be given a prominent finding and in such case, all the needed requisites might be fulfilled. After considering all the benefits which can be gained by using this system, the concerned authorities might adopt a positive approach and amend the laws for a mutual benefit and for the betterment of the society at large.