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Roadblocks: Policy flaws, lack of low-cost credit hit farm solar projects

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Choudhary stated: “Photo voltaic farm is a revolutionary method to generate further earnings for small farmers. States should develop a workable bridge platform to attach photo voltaic farm to electrical energy grid.”

By Prabhudatta Mishra & Anupam Chatterjee

Farmers may earn a tidy sum — further Rs 15-20 lakh yearly from a hectare of land — from unconventional makes use of of the land like solar energy technology with out interrupting farming actions, in keeping with analysts. That is as much as thrice what they presently earn from such land holding by agriculture alone.

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Although this implies it’s certainly possible to double farmers’ earnings in just a few years, coverage flaws and lack of low-cost credit score services are hampering the bold undertaking. A two-year-old unique authorities scheme to incentivise such ventures has been of little assist.

Set up of photo voltaic panels is capital-intensive; it’s estimated that roughly Rs 50 lakh is required for erecting the panels in a single acre of land. For a big majority of the farmers within the nation, such a value is barely inexpensive.

So regardless of subsidies on supply, only some tasks have been developed to this point and even these merely enabled farmers to get lease earnings of some thousand rupees every year from the photo voltaic builders.

On condition that 2.2 hectares of land suffices to supply 1 megawatt (MW) of agrivoltaics — a time period used to check with co-developing the identical space of land for each photo voltaic photovoltaic energy in addition to for agriculture – a large quantity of solar energy – 629.69 gigawatts (GWs) – could possibly be generated from the nation’s from internet sown space of 140 million hectares, in keeping with a report by Nationwide Photo voltaic Vitality Federation of India (NSEFI) launched in Might. The potential of agrivoltaics is 49.50 GW and 56.6 GW from fallow lands and different uncultivated lands, respectively, as per the report.

Some 15 pilots have been in operation till now. Some states have additionally began the registration course of to evaluate farmers’ pursuits within the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-Kusum) scheme, unveiled in February 2019 to catalyse the method. The federal government additionally eased the rules for the establishing of photo voltaic vegetation on farm lands, permitting capacities under 500 kilowatt, which means farmers with small holdings may begin the ventures.

As India has 85% small and marginal farmers out of whole 14.5 crore land-owning cultivators, solar energy may doubtlessly be the best approach to increase their earnings, stated OP Yadav, director at Jodhpur-based Central Arid Zone Analysis Institute (Cazri). The institute commissioned a 105 kilowatt photo voltaic plant in 2017 in its campus with an funding of about Rs 55 lakh in a single acre of land the place farming is constant on two-thirds of the world. This, Cazri believes, is the right mannequin for small and marginal farmers.

The PM-Kusum scheme goals to arrange 10 GW of photo voltaic vegetation in farm lands, set up 17.5 lakh agricultural photo voltaic pumps and join agricultural electrical energy feeders with solar energy to make sure solely clear power is used for irrigation. The overall outlay of the scheme is pegged at Rs 1.2 lakh crore with central monetary help of Rs 34,422 crore. The state governments may give a 30% subsidy and the stability 40% should be supplied by the farmer.

In addition to offering a further supply of earnings to farmers by way of sale of surplus energy from their photo voltaic vegetation to state-run energy distribution corporations, the PM-Kusum scheme is aimed toward decreasing the subsidy burden of the states by lowering the quantum of electrical energy to be equipped for irrigation.

Photo voltaic vegetation may even be erected on farm land with out hindering mechanised farming. “Our photo voltaic plant is elevated at a peak of about 3.5 metre which permits common agricultural actions and even mechanised farming on tractors,” stated Sharavan Sampath, CEO of Oakridge Vitality. Sampath’s agency has developed a 110-kilowatt photo voltaic unit on an elevated construction on a farmland on the outskirts of Delhi below the state authorities’s Mukhyamantri Kisan Aay Badhotri Photo voltaic Yojana scheme. “The farmer earns a median lease earnings of Rs 50,000-70,000 per acre, along with his primary earnings from agriculture,” Sampath added.

“Round 1.5-2.5 acres is required to construct 500 kilowatt photo voltaic items on farm lands and on a ballpark foundation, round 4 items of electrical energy is generated per kilowatt in a day,” Subrahmanyam Pulipaka, CEO of NSEFI, stated. “The expenditure for constructing photo voltaic items on farm lands can be comparatively increased owing to smaller capacities, and the price of constructing a 500-kilowatt plant is greater than Rs 1 crore and the associated fee might be 10-12% increased if the panels are put in on elevated buildings,” Pulipaka added.

Nevertheless, making credit score obtainable by banks at cheaper rate of interest and facilitating grid connectivity are two main calls for of farmers who’re excited about photo voltaic farming. “Even when authorities offers 60% subsidy (Centre 30% and Rajasthan authorities 30%), making the requisite funding will nonetheless be troublesome. Except banks lend 30-35% in opposition to our land, we won’t be able to generate funds on our personal,” stated Hariram Baswana of village of Budi Arjunpura in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. If the banks are prepared, at the very least 15-20 farmers of his village are able to arrange photo voltaic vegetation, Baswana added.

Sadly, on account of non-availability of credit score, farmers are being pressured to lease their land at very low-cost charges of as little as 50,000/acre to any developer, stated Bhagirath Choudhary of South Asia Biotechnology Centre. The PM-Kusum tips additionally facilitate this because it says: “If farmers/group of farmers/cooperatives/panchayats/Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) aren’t in a position to organize fairness required for establishing the renewable energy undertaking (REPP), they’ll go for creating the REPP by developer(s) and even by native DISCOM.” Choudhary stated: “Photo voltaic farm is a revolutionary method to generate further earnings for small farmers. States should develop a workable bridge platform to attach photo voltaic farm to electrical energy grid.”

The NSEFI report has advised {that a} particular agrivoltaic momentary land conversion or one other mechanism should be discovered to stop agricultural land used for agrivoltaics to be ruled by non-agricultural land use rules. It additionally has really useful {that a} minimal of 80% of the overall floor is obtainable and used for agricultural objective.

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