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Solar feeder Maharashtra model

Solar feeder Maharashtra model

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  • GS 3 || Economy || Agriculture || Primary Inputs (Seeds, Irrigation, Fertilizers, Pesticides)

Why in News?

  • Maharashtra govt. has extended the agricultural solar feeder scheme to the full state after its pilot implementation at Ralegan Siddhi (Ahmednagar) and Kolambi (Yawatmal).

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  • Under this program, the farmers are supplied power during the day with the help of solar generation.

Stance of Agriculture in Power

  • Ranging from 25% to 33% of the consumption, agriculture is the biggest consumer of power in many states in India.
  • Since 1970, agriculture in many States is either at low rates or free for agriculture.
  • Access to groundwater depends on affordable power supply.
  • Around 65% in India uses groundwater pumping, powered by either electric pumps or diesel pumps, but majority of them are electric pumps.

Plights of the Electricity in Agriculture

  • Majority of India has unmetered supply because of several states’ government provisions of subsidy or free endowments.
  • Lower tariffs and subsidies led to the losses to discoms.
  • Cross-Subsidy compensated this loss of the disoms and the remaining through direct subsidy from the State governments. Because in earlier time, since it got a moniker of loss sector, agriculture often gets poor quality supply which results in frequent pump burn-outs and power failures.
  • Getting new connections and restoring supply take lots of time.
  • Further, the supply is unreliable and often available during late nights.
  • Electricity demand for agriculture is expected to double in the next 10 years and as the average cost of supply keeps increasing, the problem of agriculture subsidies will become worse.

Maharashtra Solar Feeder Scheme

  • It is a 1-10 MW range solar power plant, which is interconnected with the 33/11 kV sub-stations.
  • It will provide low cost electricity from solar, at Rs. 2.75-3/unit and at a fixed price contract for 25 years.
  • 1 MW solar plant can support around 350, 5 hp pumps which requires around 5 acres of land.
  • Also, Pumps need not be changed and farmers do not have to take responsibility of installation and operation.
  • Reliable day-time electricity for 8-10 hours between 8 am and 6 pm.
  • Due to inter-connection within the feeder and solar supply, power will always be balanced in supply.
  • If pumping demand is low, maybe during rains, excess solar electricity will be given back to the discom.
  • Selected projects will be through a competitive-bidding process and the entire electricity would be bought by the discom through a 25-year contract.
  • The discom would continue to distribute the electricity to farmers on concerned feeders.
  • It will drastically increase its solar procurement to achieve the national objective of increasing the use of solar power.
  • Central govt. has also proposed the scheme KUSUM, with a 10,000 MW target in the same pipeline of the solar feeding.

Cure to the Problem

  • Reliable, adequate day-time electricity supply heading towards a gradual increase in the mutual trust between the discoms and the farmer.
  • No capital subsidy from the government.
  • No new large transmission lines
  • Deployment is feasible and generation also qualifies for Solar RPO of the participating discom.
  • Employment generation in order to install and maintain the plants for the local youths.
  • Cost of supplying power from the state discom is almost Rs. 5/unit with a rise each year, the price for solar power is about Rs. 3/unit, fixed for 25 years.
  • Saving of about Rs. 2/unit translates to an annual saving of Rs. 10,000/five hp pump. A normal feeder with 500 pumps, this would save Rs. 4.5 crore (in net present value terms) over 20 years.