Solar Power Irrigation in India


India is a perfect place for solar power irrigation. We receive more than 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. This makes India, a solar resource rich nation. It has been analyzed that, as much as 70% people in villages of India are involved in agriculture and its subsidiary activities. Often, rural India is considered to be the real India. So, there are millions of families involved and deriving their livelihood from agriculture. Irrigation forms an important part of this activity. For this, farmers depend on either diesel or electricity supply. It has been estimated that, 62% of total irrigated farms are irrigated by tube wells which rely on diesel or electricity for their operation. This increases farming cost and farmers had to be dependent on these resources for performing their job. With solar power irrigation systems, farmers can become independent and they can irrigate their fields at any time and day (as per their convenience) without any running or recurring cost.

solar power irrigation in India

This post, Solar Power Irrigation in India is second part in our Solar Irrigation series. The series comprises of four parts. To read first part, click here.

About 82% of farmers in India fall in “small and marginal” category. These farmers are poor, with very small pieces of land and resources. It becomes difficult for them to irrigate their lands as they cannot afford diesel or electricity. In order to ease poor farmers, governments in various states provide diesel and electricity at subsidized rates. This forms a financial distress on DISCOM’s and various governments and it even, doesn’t solve the problem for everyone. Even after subsidies, there are farmers who cannot afford to irrigate their lands. Because of this, only 48% of net-sown area in India is irrigated. Rest, all farmers depend on natural forces for irrigation. This results in variable yields for different years with some seasons of less or more rainfall being very stressful for farmers.

Solar power irrigation can benefit all, be it farmers, DISCOM’s and governments. Solar energy is abundant and is available everyday. This is free energy, nature provides us and it doesn’t have much variation either. Sun shines everyday throughout the year without fail. There is some variation in its intensity over the year, but, that doesn’t cause any trouble. With solar pumps, farmers don’t have to worry about diesel or electricity as they can power their irrigation and farm needs through solar energy. There is only one time investment, after which solar plant works for free of cost for more than 25 years. They can irrigate their fields at any time, whenever they want. This is because, power for their needs is being harvested in their backyard and can be used anytime. DISCOM’s and governments will also be benefited as they don’t have to provide recurring subsidies on diesel and electricity. This will ease them and these utilities can use the saved money in developing other necessities, such as building roads, schools and hospitals etc.

Government already provides subsidy to install a solar irrigation system. With no recurring subsidies, government can increase subsidy on solar plant to further reduce the upfront cost. Thus, encouraging more people to use solar power irrigation in India.

Not only irrigation, but these solar plants can also power farmer’s homes whenever needed. Villages in India still don’t receive electricity throughout the day. These solar plants can power rural houses which will help build India and will open new avenues for farmers and their families. This will expand and diversify a farmer’s income. In addition, these solar plants can power small schools and hospitals etc. which will bring overall development for the community.

Having farms solar power irrigated will help in adding to Government of India’s National Solar Mission. According to IEEFA analysis as published on solarquarter, India can achieve 38% of its renewable energy generation target (175 GW) by just replacing old or conventional irrigation pumps by 3 HP solar powered ones. This is almost 67% of target (100 GW) set by National Solar Mission. This will benefit the environment immensely and will help in reducing climate change. This will reduce the use of coal by as much as 141 million tonnes and will reduce diesel consumption by up to 4 billion liters. These savings can be valued at:

  • Coal cost saving: INR ₹105 billion (US$1.5 billion) per year

  • Diesel cost saving: INR ₹272 billion (US$3.9 billion) per year

  • Agricultural Electricity Government Subsidy savings: INR ₹228 billion (US$3.3 billion) per year

  • Gross Electricity Subsidy Savings: INR ₹300 billion (US$4.3 billion) per year

  • FOREX savings – Reduction of Coal Import: INR ₹479 billion (US$6.9 billion) per year

  • FOREX savings – Reduction of Oil Import: INR ₹400 billion (US$5.8 billion) per year

A lot of carbon dioxide will be saved by using solar power irrigation in India. The reduction in carbon dioxide given by the same report is as follows:

  • Carbon dioxide emission reduction from reduction in use of coal: 52.5 million tonnes

  • Carbon dioxide emission reduction from reduction in use of diesel: 224 million tonnes

As more and more people will adapt this technology, the scope for a whole new industry brightens. New manufacturing industries, EPC and I&C companies will come into play that will contribute to India’s success and generate employment opportunities for thousands of people in India. Therefore, this will contribute to “Make in India” as well.

A lot of work remains to be done for solar power irrigation in India. At present, according to CEEW, there are only 0.13 million solar power irrigation pumps in India out of a total of 29.93 million irrigation pumps. This means, solar power irrigation in India constitute of only 4% of total irrigation in India.

We believe that everyone will be in a winning situation with the adaption of solar power irrigation in India. Government of India and various state governments have acknowledged solar power irrigation benefits and to promote solar power irrigation, it has introduced various schemes. Details on these schemes will be discussed in the next post.

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