Solar Irrigation


Solar power has changed the way people energize their energy needs throughout the world. It has proved to be useful in almost all sectors of utilization. Solar power is being used to power buildings such as homes, factories, offices and malls etc. They are also being used, or, we can say, being researched, to power vehicles. Solar Power has also changed and is changing the methods of irrigation in cultivating fields. This has changed the lives of farmers throughout the world. It becomes particularly more important, in countries such as India, where 70% of rural people depend on agriculture as main source of income. This forms the topic of discussion of this post, “Solar Irrigation”.

Solar Irrigation
Solar Irrigation

The article became very long, so, we will post it in four parts. This is the first part. 

In this post, you’ll read about solar irrigation, it’s brief history of solar, how has it been utilized in India, how is it being utilized and what is the scope and it’s future prospects in India. We will also list benefits of solar irrigation and how it is changing and can change the lives of millions of farmers in India. You’ll get to know about the various schemes and policies implemented by Government of India to promote solar powered irrigation.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy reading and absorbing the whole lot of information that has changed and is changing the lives of millions. In case you are a farmer or belong to a farmer community, this post is for you. For all of you, not from agricultural background, this post will motivate you to know more about solar energy as you’ll wonder, just like irrigation application, I can use solar energy to power my needs. And who knows, maybe you’ll come up with an interesting innovation that’ll change the world.

What is Solar Irrigation

Solar irrigation is same as irrigating any agricultural field. The only difference here from conventional irrigation systems, is that, the mechanism is powered by solar energy instead of diesel or electricity.

Solar energy is available abundantly everywhere. Sun shines everyday and blesses us with its immense energy without any expectation of return. This is the beauty of nature. While, the beauty of solar irrigation is that, there are no recurring cost of using this system. This is because, the fuel of this system, that is, solar energy, is available free.

The system comes in both DC and AC configurations depending on the application or motor. Solar plants for irrigation pumps can be installed in either On-Grid configuration or Off-Grid configuration. This depends on the availability of grid and the duration of supply from the grid. A separate system comes for/with both surface and submersible motors.

Solar power irrigation system can be added to any existing conventional irrigation system or you can buy it, entirely new.

Main components of Solar Irrigation System

The main components of this irrigation system are as follows:

  • Solar Panels
  • Pump Controller
  • Motor (Submersible or Surface)

Batteries are optional. They are used for Off-Grid installations. However, even in this application, batteries can be ignored to reduce cost and make solar power irrigation system affordable. When not using batteries, water can be stored in tanks, with the help of pump, running during the day. This stored water can then be used for irrigation during night. However, with system having batteries, you can run the pump even during night through batteries.

Brief History of Solar Irrigation

It took its baby steps in the late 1970s. However, there were many challenges faced by this technology at that time, both on technological and financial fronts. At that time, the technology was primitive and was very expensive. So, it was not adapted back then by most farmers and remained a technology to be improved significantly. Over three decades, the technology and price kept getting better and better and solar power irrigation made a break-through in 2009. At this time, price of solar panels started to decline and this made solar power irrigation affordable for farmers. The technology has also improved many folds since its inception in the 1970s. Now, we use sophisticated charge controllers and software which has changed everything for the better. The price of motors and controllers have also declined over these years. Subsidies and discounts provided by Government for its installation, eases farmers, as it further reduces the cost.

All this cooks a perfect recipe today, to use solar irrigation.

As the price of solar panels continue to decrease, the system is becoming more and more affordable. This increases the scope of solar irrigation.

Solar Irrigation Overview

It allows farmers to irrigate their lands at any time of day without being dependent on resources such as diesel and electricity supply. Farmers, generally, live or has a room in or near their fields. Solar plants powering solar pumps can also used by farmers to power their homes whenever needed. This system can also provide clean drinking water for farmers where it is unavailable. This will also expand and diversify farmer’s income.

At present, farmers get subsidy on diesel and electricity for irrigation from DISCOMs and government. This puts financial stress on DISCOMs. With utilization of solar power, these DISCOMs can be relieved of this financial situation.

It will contribute to county’s Solar Mission and will help achieve targets. With increase in solar irrigation, new business and job opportunities will arise, which will eclipse the unemployment crisis.

This will help in reducing carbon footprints and will mitigate climate change.

To increase its utilization, governments are providing various subsidies under various schemes throughout the country.

This was just an overview of the big picture of solar irrigation. Stay tuned for more information with facts and figures in the next post.

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