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Spotlight | February 2017

The pioneer in the forefront

Bajaj Electricals Ltd (BEL), which has pioneered the transmission technology using monopoles a decade ago, remains in the forefront of the industry by bagging the prestigious Noida to Greater Noida transmission project recently. The project envisaging an outlay of Rs 82 crore is billed as the largest end-to-end 400-kV transmission project using monopoles coming up in Uttar Pradesh.

In India, the market for transmission and distribution monopoles is still at a very nascent stage, though the products are in use for over 50 years in the Gulf and European countries.

´Though monopoles were first installed in 2007 by BEL, the demand has not picked up much from then on. Despite several advantages offered by these products, the market for them in the country remained below Rs 100 crore per annum till last fiscal,´ Sanjay Bhagat, vice-president and head Transmission Line Towers Business Unit of BEL.

BEL was the first to install a 400-kV transmission line using monopoles for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PowerGrid) in 2007. Even today, the uniqueness of BEL lies in execution of turnkey EPC contract in transmission and distribution sector and in lighting, which involves from conceptualisation, to designing and manufacturing up to installation.

Monopoles have been globally quite popular especially in developed countries. In US, they have been using it since late 60s, while in Europe and China they are being used extensively. In South America they are not that popular, but it is much better than what we have in India.

Right of way
Listing out the advantages of monopoles in transmission lines, Bhagat said it requires minimum space at a time when getting a right of way (RoW) is the most difficult process for several projects. Faster and safer erection can crunch project timelines, while lesser footprint will bring down environmental impact. They are built in aerodynamic shape, which ensures lower resistance in inclement weather conditions. Because lower number of components are involved in monopoles, inventory management becomes easier and better. Above all monopoles come in aesthetically pleasing designs.

´Right now, people are using it basically as and when the project lands into trouble û in the form of RoW, mainly in urban or hilly areas, where installation of conventional lattice towers proves costly overall,´ says Bhagat.

´To derive full advantage of monopoles, the industry should use lines exclusively using monopoles across the length of the line. At present, they are putting 2-3 monopoles in a circuit running into several kilometres. The Greater Noida project is one of its kind, in the country, that way,´ Bhagat added.

Cost-conscious
Right now, monopoles are costing 2.5-3 times that of lattice towers. Cost is a major area where customers think twice whether to go for monopole or not. BEL´s intention is to reduce prices so it becomes more viable to go in for monopole lines. ´We are trying to reduce the gap. Now we are going out with the new technology, mainly for foundations. So, the cost can be reduced substantially with new types of foundations and new technologies and development of new monopoles and optimisation in designing,´ says Bhagat.

Greater Noida project is an example for this. It is passing through an area which has the potential to become residential or commercial colonies in future, though they are only plain fields now. ´This is an example of good planning and planning for the future. We will have footprint as small as possible,´ Bhagat explained.

Aesthetics
Aesthetics as an idea is catching up for monopoles. ´One project we have done as an EPC contractor in Lucknow was passing through Janeshwar Mishra Park. The utility wanted a line which would go around the park in monopole structures. We have taken the line from the border of the park and those monopoles are looking very beautiful, enhancing the look and feel of the park. Lot of people are admiring that structure,´ says Bhagat.

Earlier the concept of monopoles was utility, but as it was passing through urban area, aesthetic has gained equal importance, besides addressing the land constraints. Another project executed by BEL in Goa is using polyurethane paint in white to improve the aesthetics.

New Vistas
Once there is sufficient power, the focus was shifted building new transmission capacities about a decade or two ago. But with surplus power becoming a reality, of late, there is a thrust to reaching out to new pockets of consumers in new geographies which were not being catered to earlier. This prospect is providing new scope for the BEL to expect rosy times ahead.

Inter-state projects are already underway. However, Bhagat sees demand for monopoles rising only when intra-state transmission projects are taken up in a big way. ´There has to be well co-ordinated efforts between state utilities and central utilities. Unless that happens it will be very difficult,´ Bhagat says.

Though smart cities could help increasing transmission projects as a niche project, electrification of each household, through the avowed village electrification programme of the government, could boost transmission network immensely, feels Bhagat.

Big boost
´The government is planning to bring a notification asking the transmission companies to pay for the cost of the land instead of crop compensation when they install a transmission tower that was being paid to the farmers earlier. That could impact the demand positively for monopoles, which take only a fraction of the space required for lattice towers,´ says Bhagat.

If the notification is issued and if those prices have to be paid by transmission companies and if the area is close to urban areas or in even semi-urban areas, then the cost of land (or RoW) will be very high. In such circumstances using monopoles instead of lattice towers will make sense even for transmission companies, to save on land costs across the transmission corridor.

Already a big name in EPC contracts covering a wide spectrum of activities, BEL is making strides into the future.

- PT Team

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