A new experiment is on in Gujarat’s Anand district. Farmers are sought to be enrolled into a cooperative, the world’s first of its kind, for setting up solar water pumps. After utilizing the water for irrigation, the pumps generate power, which is sold to the Gujarat government’s distribution company. This enables the farmers to earn more. A note:
Registered in February this year, the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali, is the world’s first solar cooperative. During a media event organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), R.S. Sodhi, managing director of Amul, handed over the first income cheque of Rs 36,005 to the farmer members of the cooperative. “Anand, the birthplace of Amul’s milk cooperatives and India’s ‘White Revolution’, is now inspiring an ‘Orange Revolution’ powered by solar farmers”, said Sodhi.
With support from IWMI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), six farmers of Dhundi village in Kheda district have installed 56.4 kWp of solar capacity which they use for irrigation as well as for selling surplus power to the Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL). Between 10 May, when the evacuation started, and 31 July, the farmers evacuated 5,097 units of electricity to the grid for which MGVCL has agreed to pay Rs 4.63 per unit. These units could have been used to pump an additional 25 million liters of groundwater.
Before the cooperative, farmers were using diesel pumps which have now been replaced by solar pumps, leading to a reduction of 1.6 Tonnes of carbon emissions. “Recognizing these positive impacts, the IWMI- Tata Water Policy Program (ITP) has offered the Mandali ‘Water Conservation’ (Rs 1.25 per unit) and ‘Green Energy’ (Rs 1.25 per unit) bonuses in addition to the price paid by MGVCL”, said IWMI’s Tushaar Shah, who led the research pilot.
The National Solar Mission aims at reaching 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022 and mentions two major paths for doing so, Rooftop Solar Systems and MW-scale Solar power plants. ITP has been arguing that solarizing agriculture is better than both these ways. Since commercial and domestic sector are profitable segments for power utilities, reducing power sales to them will affect the financial health of already indebted power utilities.
Instead, solarizing the highly subsidized farm power segment will improve the utilities’ finances while putting additional income in the hands of our farmers. Another advantage of this model is the minimal land footprint since farmers can continue to use land under solar panels to grow crops.