Solar Energy Route for Doubling Farmers Income

The government had committed to double the farmer’s income by 2022. But the recent submission by the Minister of State for Agriculture had accepted the present policies adopted by the central government are falling short in fulfilling this commitment.

One way for filling the gaps can be traced to the idea mooted by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden budget speech she asked why the annadata (farmer) cannot become the urjadata (producer of solar power).

India’s Push for Solar Energy

To double the farmer’s income by 2022 in the remaining four years till 2022-23 require real incomes of farmers must go up by 13-15 per cent per annum. Though this seems difficult but not impossible.

India has set a target of producing 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Mostly the strategy to accomplish the target is driven by large investors with whom the government has entered into power purchase agreements (PPA). This model is said to be non-inclusive since the land is locked for solar panels for almost 25 years, and the benefits go only to a few investors.

Solar Power to Energise Farmers Income

To make India’s solar drive more inclusive an alternate model is proposed wherein farmers are encouraged to produce solar power on their lands. This involves making annadata an urjadata.

In India, farmers occupy large chunks of land. Hence involving farmers will make the solar energy drive more inclusive and will also aid in augmenting the farmer’s incomes significantly.

Integrating Farmers with Solar Energy Production: Ways and Means
  • Replacing all pump-sets, especially diesel ones, with solar pumps and further the excess power generated through solar panels can be purchased by state governments at a price that gives the farmer a good margin over his cost of producing solar power.
  • Encouraging farmers to grow “solar trees” on their lands at a height of about 10-12 feet in a manner that enough sunlight keeps coming to plants below. This will enable the farmer can keep growing two irrigated crops as he/she has been doing, but the solar tree generates a lot of excess power that can be purchased by the state government.

But the big challenge in adopting the strategies mentioned above is capital mobilisation and willingness of state governments to enter into power purchase agreements.

Delhi Model

The Delhi LG took a keen interest in integrating farmers with solar power and approved a proposal to develop a demonstration plot in Delhi’s Agri-belt. The Delhi government developed a policy to this effect which provided that:

  • As per their calculations around 500 solar trees can be put on an acre of farmer’s land.
  • The investment for solar trees will be made by other business people and the farmer has to assure that for 25 years he will not convert his land to other uses.
  • The economic calculations suggested that farmers can be given Rs one lakh/acre per annum as net income, with a six per cent increase every year for the next 25 years.
  • This income augmentation cans easily double the farmer’s income.

India needs to provide auxiliary sources of income to double the farmers income by 2022. Integrating farmers with India’s solar mission is a good way forward in this direction.

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