[op-ed snap] Towards solar-powered agriculture

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Interest subsidy

Mains level: Irrigation is an important issue of the Agricultural economy. The newscard discusses its solution in the form of solar pumps


News

Efforts done by different state governments

  1. Maharashtra is solarising its agricultural feeders by installing solar power plants at the substation level, through competitive bidding
  2. Karnataka is promoting solar pumps for existing grid-connected farmers under a net-metering regime
  3. This regime allows them to generate additional income by feeding back surplus energy into the grid
    Are we heading towards in the right direction?
  4. Despite the diversity of approaches and significant government subsidies, only about 1,42,000 pumps have been deployed till date against a target of one million pumps by 2021

How solar pumps can help?

  1. In India, 53% of the net-sown area is still rain-fed
  2. Solar pumps hold potential to enhance irrigation access, advance low-carbon agriculture, reduce the burden of rising electricity subsidies, and improve the resilience of farmers against a changing climate

What can be done?

  1. Target marginal farmers with smaller solar pumps, particularly in areas with good groundwater development potential
  2. Couple solar pump deployment with micro-irrigation and water harvesting interventions at the farm and community levels
    (due to limited water availability in some areas)
  3. In regions with already good penetration of electric pumps, prefer feeder solarisation through competitive bidding over solarisation of individual pumps
    (as solarising individual grid-connected pumps is the costliest approach for the government to expand irrigation cover)
  4. In regions with prevailing local water markets, promote community-owned solar pumps
    (for competitive prices)
  5. Encourage sharing of solar pumps among farmers through farmer extension programmes
  6. Provide interest-subsidy to farmers combined with reduced capital subsidy to enable large-scale deployment of solar pumps in a shorter span of time
    (for covering great number of farmers)
    What is interest subsidy: The value of the tax deductions of an individual’s or company’s earnings resulting from interest payments on its debt over the course of a year.

The way forward

  1. The government should continuously improve and innovate its support mechanisms on solar for irrigation
  2. India must exploit the potential of this decentralised technology to achieve the dual national targets of 100 GW of solar and doubling farmers income by 2022
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.
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