Despite several farmers expressing interest in installation of solar plants on their land after a scheme was approved by the Delhi government last year, the plan could suffer a setback without a proactive approach, a senior Delhi government official has said.
The Mukhyamantri Kisan Aaye Badhotri Yojana was supposed to be implemented in March this year, but a delay in notification of the Virtual Net Metering (VNM) Framework by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission pushed the project back, the official said.
On Friday, however, the Delhi government announced that steps towards deployment of renewable energy projects in residential and agricultural sectors had been taken with notification of the VNM and the Group Net Metering Framework.
“This is a big push for renewable energy in Delhi. The Delhi government has clearly outlined its energy vision for sustainability, decentralisation and anti-corruption,” Power Minister Satyendar Jain said.
“These guidelines will enable speedy implementation of solar projects under Mukhyamantri Kisan Aaye Badhotri Yojana and Mukhyamantri Solar Power Yojana for domestic sector consumers,” he said.
The scheme, aimed at farmers, was approved by the cabinet in July last year and involves installation of solar plants on a third of farm land by private companies, for which farmers would get Rs 1 lakh per year.
Tenders for setting up the plants are expected to be released around August, a power department official said, adding that after tenders are awarded, the project would take about nine months to complete.
An agreement for 25 years would be signed by farmers to rent their land to private companies, and the rent would increase by 6% every year. By the 25th year, the rent would be more than 4 lakh, the official claimed.“If at any point the farmer wishes to come out of the agreement, there will be a clause that offers flexibility to exit. However, they would have to pay the deprecated value of the solar plant, set at 6.5% per annum . After the 25th year, the solar plant would be passed on to them free of cost,” the official said.
The height of solar panels has been set at 3.5 metres to allow easy access for farming activities. The minimum land requirement for entering the scheme is six acres, and the one mega watt plant, scattered across the land, will cost around Rs 5.3 crore. Groups of farmers can also come together to benefit from the policy, the power official said.
“A number of departments are involved in this scheme and it requires a mission-based approach to progress. Many farmers are showing interest and around September last year, they had consented to more than 100 acres of land for the policy… The energy generated would be bought by state departments such as the DJB,” the official said.
The scheme, aimed at farmers in the green belt of the capital and in villages on its periphery, would also offer 1,000 units of electricity per annum free to farmers.
Farmers enthused about scheme — but not the lock-in period
Ranbir Dagar (46) suffered a deep cut on his right palm Saturday while building a large bamboo shack at his farm in Dhansa village, which borders Haryana south-west of the national capital.
But fixed on completing the work soon, he did not let it bother him.
“After we harvest our wheat and jowar crops, there is a period of inactivity for two months before rains set in. During this time, it is hard to grow any crop on the land because of the harsh weather and water shortage,” Dagar said.
Dagar said that the state government scheme approved by the cabinet last year — under which private firms would install a solar plant on one third of farming land for which farmers would be paid Rs one lakh per year, with an increment of 6% per annum — could help farmers like him.
Naresh Kumar, a farmer from the village, said, “We get around Rs 6,000 per month by selling our crops and the money being offered under this scheme would benefit us, but we are worried that signing a long-term agreement would mean having lesser control over our land.”
Suresh Kumar (56) and Rakesh Kumar (35) reiterated the sentiment, saying that the value of their land could more than double in around 15 years and they might want to sell it then.
“Our children do not want to work in the farms… so if we want to sell it in the future, we might not be able to do so because of the agreement. Or we would have to pay a penalty to walk out of the agreement, which we may not be able to able to pay,” Suresh said. He added that only 15 farmers in the village own a six-acre land, the minimum requirement to avail the scheme.
Others may have to pool their land together to benefit from the scheme, he added.
Rakesh, who owns a one-acre land, said, “The money that I would receive from the scheme after others take their share will be very less. That is something many farmers will consider before availing it.”