India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has reiterated its commitment to set up nearly 26 gigawatts solar power capacity in the agricultural sector by 2022.
Minister RK Singh informed the Indian parliament that a large portion of this capacity will be installed in the form of conventional land-based projects. 10 gigawatts of capacity will be installed at barren or fallow land available with farmers. These projects will have 2 megawatt of capacity each. Farmers will be able to sell power from these projects to retailers and earn additional income. Financial support in the form of capital subsidy shall be offered to farmers.
The government shall also support installation of off-grid solar pumps. Solar pumps are conventional irrigation pumps integrated with solar panels. Irrigation is among the most energy-intensive activities in the agricultural sector and taking its substantial load off the grid greatly improves the financial condition of retailers.
India’s power retailers are reeling under losses of hundreds of billions of dollars. Supply of power at very low or at no cost at all is among the leading reasons for this financial distress. Due to political compulsions retailers have failed to increase tariffs for agricultural consumers.
Apart from installation of new off-grid solar pumps, the addition of solar panels to grid-connected irrigation pumps will also be undertaken.
Around 1.75 million off-grid solar pumps shall be set up while 1 million operational grid-connected irrigation pumps shall be fitted with solar panels. These solar pumps and small land-based solar projects will be beneficial to retailers as well as farmers. Financial distress among farmers has been a major political issue in the country for years.
The government plans to offer subsidies worth Rs 344 billion for this program called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM). The government has set a deadline to achieve a 25.7 gigawatt target capacity by 2022. While Singh did not share the progress made so far under this scheme, it would be a challenge for the government to meet this target in time.