But developers must show that they are not using protected land and have applied for water permits.

Solar thermal power developers such as Lanco Infratech, Reliance Power’s Rajasthan Sun Technique, and Godawari Power and Ispat can now go ahead with their projects without any fear of environmental delays.

The Ministry of Environment & Forests has exempted entities implementing projects under the National Solar Mission from environment clearance requirement. But the developers will have to demonstrate that they are not using protected land and have applied for water permits.

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy had raised the issue of the State pollution control boards repeated requests to obtain prior environment clearance for solar thermal power projects. The pollution boards felt that these projects were covered by the Environmental Impact Assessment provisions.

“It is now clarified that solar thermal power projects are not covered by the provisions of the EIA notification, 2006,” Thursday’s notification said. This decision is expected to speed up the implementation of these projects.

According to developers, solar power is clean and environment friendly and the land used for the projects does not require much change or development. Further, most of the land is used for installing solar collectors only. There are no polluting emissions or discharges in the air or water bodies because of these projects, the industry felt.

Of the 37 companies selected to develop 620 MW of solar power projects (both photovoltaic and thermal) under the Phase-1 of the National Solar Mission, seven are solar thermal projects with a capacity of 470 MW. Of these, Rajasthan has five projects — three of 100 MW and two of 50 MW each — totalling 400 MW. Andhra Pradesh has one project of 50 MW and Gujarat has one of 20 MW.

The companies have to implement the projects by May 2013. In the event of delays in implementation, the companies may forfeit bank guarantees of as much as Rs 180 crore for delays of up to five months, depending on the project size.