The Government of India has a target of adding over 10,000 MW of solar capacity to solarize the agriculture sector. Solar power is one of the most versatile forms of energy, with boundless potential and can be a game changer for the agricultural sector, saving precious water resources, reducing dependency on the grid, and even becoming an additional revenue stream for farmers.
The Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, stated in the Lok Sabha, “So far, under ‘Phase-II of Off-grid and Decentralized Solar PV Applications’ program, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has sanctioned 96,376 standalone solar pumps during 2017-18 and 2018-19.”
So far, 15,000 standalone solar pumps have been approved in Andhra Pradesh, 3,300 in Bihar, 15,000 in Chhattisgarh, 5,000 in Gujarat, 2,000 in Jharkhand, 1,500 in Karnataka, 14,000 in Madhya Pradesh, 8,000 in Maharashtra, 1,500 in Orissa, 2,556 in Punjab, 7,500 in Rajasthan, 1,000 in Tamil Nadu, 20,000 in Uttar Pradesh and 20 in Andaman & Nicobar islands.
Tomar also informed the House that the MNRE launched a program for assisting farmers for the installation of solar pumps and grid-connected solar and other renewable power projects. The program aims to add solar and other renewable capacities of 25,750 MW by 2022 with a total central financial assistance (CFA) of ₹344.22 billion (~$4.69 billion), including service charges to the implementing agencies.”
Mercom previously reported that in March 2019, the central government approved the launch of the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) program for farmers, aimed at helping the farmers install solar pumps and grid-connected solar power projects, which in turn would provide financial and water security to farmers.
In the Lok Sabha session, Tomar added that 1.75 million standalone solar powered agriculture pumps owned by farmers of an aggregate capacity of 8,250 MW would be set up and solarization of 1 million grid-connected solar pumps of an aggregate capacity of 7,500 MW would be done.”
This would help reduce the load on distribution companies who are often asked by the government to provide cheap or concessional power to farmers. This will also make farmers power independent.
Tomar informed the House that under the program, “CFA of 30% of the benchmark cost of the standalone solar pumps will be provided by the government. The state government will give financial support to the tune of 30%, and the remaining 40% will be provided by the farmer. Bank finance will be made available for 30% of the farmer’s contribution so that the farmer initially pays only 10% of the cost.”
Solar pumps are a win-win option for DISCOMs as the power generated from them can count towards meeting their renewable purchase obligation (RPO).
Recently, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) issued an order stating that solar PV power generated from off-grid solar PV water pumps under various solar agriculture pump programs will be considered as deemed generation towards Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL)’s RPO fulfillment.
Image credit: Apepdcl
Saumy is a senior staff reporter with MercomIndia.com covering business and energy news since 2016. Prior to Mercom, Saumy was a copy editor at Thomson Reuters. Saumy earned his Bachelors Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication from the Manipal Institute of Communication at Manipal University. More articles from Saumy Prateek.