Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali, a newly-formed solar pump cooperative in Kheda district, was Monday given a certificate of appreciation by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel for selling surplus power produced in their farms to the electricity grid.
The Chief Minister was in Anand to inaugurate the 12th edition of Krishi Mahotsav. The cooperative that holds the distinction of being the world’s “first solar irrigation cooperative” was felicitated for providing its members “smart income” from energy sales to a local discom. The solar cooperative was formed in mid-February by bringing together six vegetable farmers in Dhundi.
Each farmer installed a solar irrigation pump in their fields by contributing a partial amount, with International Water Management Institute (IWMI) pitching in the rest. The solar pumps were connected to the power grid of Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL), and a 25-year power purchase agreement was signed recently allowing the farmers to sell back the surplus energy at a rate of Rs 4.63 per kWh equivalent of solar energy.
Speaking at the occasion, Tushaar Shah of IWMI said, “We are excited that the government is recognising the potential of the solar irrigation cooperative model and supporting us. This concept will not only benefit the farmers by supplementing their incomes, but will also benefit the environment by incentivising farmers to conserve groundwater and instead sell the surplus power generated. If we solarise India’s 20 million grid-connected electric pumps that farmers currently use to pump groundwater, it would save the country around Rs 60,000 – Rs 70,000 crores of farm power subsidy as well.”
“Once full benefits of the Dhundi pattern of solar irrigation are recognised, we expect that the government and discoms will be willing to replicate it and offer farmers a more remunerative price for their surplus energy sales,” said Shah.
The current installed capacity of the Dhundi solar cooperative is 56.4 kW and the IWMI team plans to expand it to 100 kWp over the next few months.
The idea of Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE) was developed by the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Research Program (ITP), a partnership between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the Tata Trusts with support from the CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
Last year, IWMI had successfully piloted a single farmer SPaRC (Solar Power as Remunerative Crop) model in Anand district in which a farmer’s solar irrigation pump was connected to the electricity grid, presenting him with the choice to sell the surplus power generated when the fields are not being irrigated.