ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Promoting Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop

Anand, the Gujarat town that gave India its dairy cooperative movement, has now spawned in Dhundi village the world’s first solar cooperative that produces Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop. When compared to other models promoting solar irrigation in the country, the SPaRC model, which has successfully completed one year in Dhundi, offers multiple benefits across-the-board: it will control groundwater overexploitation, reduce the subsidy burden on DISCOMs, curtail carbon footprint of agriculture, and help double farmer incomes

In May 2017, the world’s first Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE) completed its first year of operation in Dhundi village in central Gujarat. Solar pumps are not new in India, and their number has grown from less than 7,500 in 2010 to nearly 1,00,000 in 2015–16 (IANS 2017). Usually, these pumps continue to run whether the farmers need the power to irrigate or not, since surplus solar energy goes waste anyway. However, the members of Dhundi SPICE operate differently. Once the farmers are done with irrigation, they pool their surplus solar energy and sell it to Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL), the local power distribution company (or DISCOM) under a 25-year power purchase agreement. In return, these farmers have surrendered in writing their right to apply for a subsidised grid power connection for 25 years.

The first group of farmers to join the cooperative were offered a feed-in tariff (FiT) of ₹ 4.63/kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the solar power sold to the DISCOM. In mid-2016, this was the lowest tariff any utility-scale solar generator had won in open bidding. To incentivise the farmers to conserve groundwater, the Inter­national Water Management Institute (IWMI) and CCAFS (CGIAR programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security), which piloted the Dhundi cooperative, offered farmers a green energy bonus of ₹ 1.25/kWh and a water conservation bonus of another ₹ 1.25/kWh, taking the total FiT to ₹ 7.13/kWh for the power sold.

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Updated On : 13th Nov, 2017

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