Six farmers of Dhundi village in Gujarat’s Anand district have formed the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative called the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali (DSUUSM) with the help of International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a Colombo-based non-profit scientific research organisation. Farmers in this cooperative use solar power to run irrigation pumps for their fields and sell the surplus energy generated from the solar panels to Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (MGVCL). The cooperative is also called Solar Pump Irrigators Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE) and has been registered at Registrar of Cooperative Society, Government of Gujarat.
The six farmers formed the cooperative in February this year, inspired by Raman Parmar, a 45-year-old farmer who replaced his diesel pump with a solar powered irrigation pump for his crops.
Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
From spending Rs. 500 a day on fuel required to irrigate his 12 bhiga land, Raman ended up earning Rs. 7,500 in four months by selling excess power to the grid.
“Within two months, six of us have sold 5,000kWh (kilowatt-hour) of surplus solar energy to Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL), the local electricity distributor, after using solar power to run the pumps that irrigate our farms,” Pravin Parmar, a 29-year-old farmer and a DSUUSM secretary told Economic Times.
IWMI has been encouraging farmers in the village to harvest solar power for several months now. A farmer needs about 80 square metre land to set up an 8kWh grid-tied solar power generation system. He/she can then sell the surplus solar power obtained when the pump is not being used, to the grid at Rs. 4.63 per kWh. This way, they will not have to spend money on irrigating their farms, and will get an additional income of Rs. 200-250 every day.
Currently, the capacity of the solar cooperative is 56.4kWh. IWMI plans to expand it to 100kWh. They have signed an agreement to sell up to 100kWh to MGVCL. 90% of the pilot project is funded by the NGO and farmers save the cost of installing solar panels which costs about Rs. 6.5 lakh. Each farmer made a one-time investment of Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 54,000 to purchase either a 5 horsepower pump (Rs 4 lakh) or a 7.7 horsepower pump (Rs 6.5 lakh). The solar pumps can generate about 40-45 units of power every day and can help reduce the burden on state distribution companies too, which sell subsidised power to farmers in Gujarat
“The system also incentivises farmers to increase the productivity of water and use less of it – so that they can sell the extra power – thus conserving ground water,” Neha Durga, a consultant at IWMI told NDTV.