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High costs turn farmers away from solar power

High costs turn farmers away from solar power
Highlights

The concept of solar agriculture pumpset, the brain child of Energy Secretary Ajay Jain aimed at drastically bringing down the conventional thermal power consumption and make agricultural operations eco-friendly and independent, minimising dependence on government supplied power, is catching up with farmers due to its long term social and economic benefits.

Bommanahal (Anantapur): The concept of solar agriculture pumpset, the brain child of Energy Secretary Ajay Jain aimed at drastically bringing down the conventional thermal power consumption and make agricultural operations eco-friendly and independent, minimising dependence on government supplied power, is catching up with farmers due to its long term social and economic benefits.

Highlights:

  • Educated farmers suggest the state govt should come up with an integrated free solar power scheme
  • Progressive farmers are opting for the scheme even if contributing Rs 55,000 from their pockets as it will have financial gain for 25 years

But, majority of the farmers are reluctant to go for solar power due to high establishment costs of solar panels and other equipment despite its long-term benefits of free power for 25 years, which is the life of the solar panels.Several educated farmers are also of the opinion that the government’s free power scheme should be replaced with free solar power scheme by making initial investment on solar panels on behalf of the beneficiary-farmers.

This will save thermal energy and also the government’s investment on free power supply to farmers running into thousands of crores every financial year. Also, the central government is providing subsidy on solar panels and other equipment. The state government has of late introduced another scheme of providing free energy efficient pumpsets to all the farmers in the state. If solar panels are also supplied to the farmers free of cost, then the huge budgetary allocation for free power every year would come to a grinding halt, the farmers feel.

Jabez David alias Vijay, an educated farmer of Kotanka village in Garladinne mandal speaking to The Hans India stated that the government instead of spending huge money on free power should revolutionise agriculture sector by making a onetime investment on free supply of solar panels and integrate the already launched free supply of energy-efficient agriculture pumpsets with the solar powered pumpsets and make the state the one to emulate as part of the power sector reforms.

The post graduate farmer who did his MA and also MBA feels that Ajay Jain should ponder over the new idea and take initiative to formulate a pro-farmer solar power scheme as it would be a great service to government and farmers. He should implement the bright idea and usher in a solar revolution.

The National Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (NREDCAP) is now focusing on the new applicants for power connection for their agriculture pumpsets after which it would turn their attention on farmers holding Transco power connections and educate them on harnessing the renewable solar energy so that they could for the next 25 years carry on their agriculture operations with no power bills as the life of solar panels is 25 years.

Irrespective of the government's free power supply, the solar powered pumpset will ensure uninterrupted solar power for more than two decades.The cost of a solar powered pumpset unit consisting of 4.8 kilowatt unit with 5 HP submersible pump, hardware and control unit is Rs 4.29 lakh. The beneficiary contribution is Rs 55,000 while the remaining Rs 2.5 lakh is financed by the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) Limited.

The subsidy given is Rs 1.62 lakh. As of now, 500 solar powered pumpsets had been grounded in different mandals while survey is on progress for installation of another 400 pumpsets. Thummala Bharathi of Devagiri village in Bommanahal mandal while interacting with The Hans India opined that the solar powered pumpset scheme though it is on the higher side if cost economics is taken into consideration, it is still a profitable proposition as the economics suggest long term financial gains apart from the 10-hour guaranteed solar power supply which is not the case with the government supplied free power.

The government gives 6-7 hours of thermal power in two spells which is practically disadvantageous. Besides, the free power supply is no guarantee as governments and policies change, she adds.NREDCAP district manager Kodandarama Murthy speaking to The Hans India revealed that solar powered pumpset perceived by Ajay Jain is a great idea and is aimed at economising coal based thermal power consumption as coal reserves are fast depleting throughout the world and unless we make hay while the sun shines the world would end up in darkness, he cautioned.

He said that as per the solar scheme of the central and state governments, the farmers are required to pay only Rs 50,000 as their contribution and the remaining is being financed by PFC. Farmers in Amarapuram, Ponnuru, Vedurukutam, Banderu villages in Kanekal mandal and farmers of Devagiri, Chandigu, Memakel and Guntakelu in Bommanahal mandal and other villages in D Hirehal mandal have all opted for solar pumpsets and are enthusiastic about the free solar power supply for the next two decades.

As one goes around the above mentioned mandals one can find solar panels dotting the vast landscape and adding beauty to agriculture farms. Many farmers are of the view that the government should formulate a new free solar power scheme in place of free thermal power scheme for farmers.

By Ravi P Benjamin

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