Release id: 14/ 2018

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 01 Octoberr, 2018


Hon'ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has inaugurated India's First Solar Cooperative, Mujkuva Saur UrjaUtpadakSahakariMandali at a ceremony at Amul Chocolate plant at MogarAnand on 30.09.2018. This project is conceived and implemented by Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments Limited(REIL) a Mini Ratna Central Public Sector Enterprise under the auspices of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). The project is outcome of visionary leadership of Chairman, NDDB,DrDileepRath and Managing Director, REIL, Shri A.K. Jain.

The project is aimed for doubling farmer’s income to reduce carbon emissions encouraging renewable energy and to save depletion of ground water level. Integrated Solar Capacity is of 150 KWp with 8 *15 HP and 3 *10 HP DC pumps and has state of art grid connect infrastructure in and around farms with stack of 11 farmers.

Shri Jain said on this occasion that this project shall bring radical changes in rural power scenario and farmers shall emerge as Net Electricity Exporter instead of highly subsidized consumer and when scaled up the same will bring long term sustainability through doubling the farmer’s income. He further said that REIL has achieved a milestone aligning its path of rapid growth while ensuring its role in improving National Economy through connecting grassroots people.

Mujkuva village is located in Anklav Tehsil of Anand district in Gujarat, India with total total population of 5,557 (Male-2,890 & Females- 2,667) approximately as per Population Census 2011.Farmers here used expensive, noisy, and polluting diesel pumps to pump water out of the ground to irrigate their crops. Diesel pumps were replaced with grid connected DC/AC efficient solar pumps, installed meters to record the energy, entered into an agreement with the local distribution utility to buy back any excess power at the rate of Rs. 3.5/kWh. IWMI (International Water Management Institute) have offered to top up the utility company Feed –in Tarrif with a green Energy Bonus of Rs. 1.25/kWh and a water Conservation bonus of another Rs. 1.25/kWh.Eleven solar pumps, with a total installed capacity of 150kWp are expected to generate some
2.15 Lakh kWh/year of solar energy.

Impact on Farmers:

Grid power in Gujarat is better than in other state but at times it still comes for only 7-8 hours each day with frequent interruptions and voltage fluctuations, and is supplied during nights for half the days in a month. Initially, farmers were worried about the land-footprint of solar panels; but they are already experimenting with a range of high value crops such as spinach, carrots, garlic, turmeric, beet and some medicinal plants that grew paddy underneath panels. Farmers are excited by the idea of ‘growing’ and selling solar energy as a cash crop that needs no seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation and backbreaking labour, and has a ready buyer at their door-step at an assured price. High capital investment in solar powered infrastructure panels is the major deterrent. However, convinced of these many benefits of Solar Power, farmers are now willing to invest more in solar pumps. The first eleven members contributed only Rs. 3000/kWp towards the capital cost of solar pumps,this is not surprising; they were neither sure whether solar pumps will deliver enough water nor whether utility company will actually pay for the surplus power farmers evacuate to the grid. A solar pump is viewed not only as an irrigation asset but also an income-generating asset that has potential to deliver better income insurance than any other crop.

Groundwater Scenario:

Solar power as remunerative crop presents a powerful counterpoise to India’s challenge of unsustainable groundwater over-exploitation. Elsewhere in the world,`persistent groundwater depletion is always self- terminating` because rapidly rising energy cost of pumping makes ground water irrigation progressively unprofitable forcing farmers to turn rainfedfarming. Data from the 4th Minor Irrigation Census shows that over 90 percent of India’s electric tubewells and 80 percent of total groundwater used in irrigation are both concentrated in 10 western states which offer free and subsidized farm power supply. 4/5th of India blocks too are concentrated in the western corridor. Diesel pump owner sell expensive irrigation service to other farmers atRs. 400/bigha/ watering. Solar irrigators were able to undercut diesel offering Rs. 250/bigha/watering. While benefitting their clients, solar irrigators are still able to earn well selling irrigation service than by evacuating it to the grid.

Effect of grid-connected micro-grid cooperatives on country’s situation:

However, India’s 15 million electric tube wells with an average connected load of 6.7 kW already constitute more than 100 GW of Pumping Capacity. Solarizing these tubewells through grid-connected micro-grid cooperatives with long term power purchase guarantee can also meet the target of 100 GW solar capacity. All that utility-scale solar plants will do is deliver green power. But besides delivering the same 150 billion kWh/year of green power, they can

a) Also put Rs. 52, 500 crore in farmers’ hands as additional income (for evacuating half the power generated at Rs. 6-7/kWh);
b) Save DISCOMS and state governments in farm power subsidies, reduce groundwater draft and reduce Carbon emission of groundwater economy.
c) Release a third of the grid capacity for alternatives uses, now that farmers generate their power in situ;
d) Reduce groundwater draft in western India from 160 BCM/year to 100-120 BCM/year; and
e) Reduce Carbon emission of groundwater economy by some 15 mmt/year.

Indian farmers today use 55 million ha of land to grow rice worth Rs. 85000 crore/year yielding value added of Rs. 45,000 crore/year but emitting 61 mmt of CO2. Dairying which is bigger than rice and wheat combined, takes up 10 mha land to produce Rs. 1,80,000 crore worth of milk with a value added of Rs. 1,20,000 crore but generating 66mmt/year of CO2. In contrast, the solar crop generates no emissions, needs only 2,00,000 ha land for laying solar panels but can yield Rs.90,000 crore worth energy output, most of it value-added.

In stabilizing small-farmer livelihood system, it may be as impactful as Mujkuvatype dairy cooperatives haveproved in many parts. A 10 kWp solar pump – delivering 14,600 kWh/year of on-farm energy supply-with a power buy back contract at Rs. 6/unit can not only help a 1 ha farmer meet all her irrigation needs but also generate additional income at her farm gate of over Rs. 50,000/year. She will need to husband 3 buffaloes to match such net income. Such type of cooperatives is albeit a small experiment to illustrate the power of solar cooperatives.

Way Forward:

A solar pump is viewed not only as an irrigation asset but also an income-REIL look forward for its stake in one of the largest business opportunity in irrigation, drinking, dairy and other possible integration while collaborating with partners and associates for the benefit of farmers. Government has already launched ambitious schemes like KUSUM (KisanUrja Suraksha UtthaanMahaAbhiyan) and Gujarat’sSKY (SuryashaktiKisanYojana) as one the measure to achieve the goal of doubling farmer’s income enabling the farmer to generate electricity for their captive consumption as well as sell the surplus power to the grid and earn an extra buck.