At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has targeted to double farm incomes by 2022, a unique initiative in his home state aims to achieve exactly the same. Next week, the country’s first solar cooperative — set up by six small farmers in Dhundi village of Kheda district — will begin harvesting the first units of solar power from their farms and supply it to the electricity grid. This initiative will empower these farmers with an estimated supplementary income of about Rs 4,000 per month.
The uniqueness of this farmer’s cooperative in Central Gujarat is that, these small-time agriculturalists — having land holdings that are smaller than 1.5 acres — have not only replaced their conventional diesel pump-sets with the solar powered ones, but have also connected these irrigation pumps to the local power grid.
This means, that when the farmer is not using the solar power to irrigate his farms, he can just flip a switch and redirect the power being generated on his farm directly to the grid, thus earning a supplementary income in the process.
This model not only provides a supplementary income to the farmers, but also incentivises them for not overdrawing groundwater using freely available solar power. This solar cooperative will formally recognised for its “innovativeness” by Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, at a formal event at Anand, on May 9.
“Our solar cooperative — Dhundi Solar Urja Udpadak Sahkari Mandali Ltd — has been invited for accepting a reward from the Gujarat CM. We will be receiving a letter of appreciation from the chief minister at a Krishi Mahotsav event at Anand Agricultural University on Monday. We are happy that this new concept is being recognised by the state government,” said Parvin Parmar (29), who is one of the first members and the secretary of the solar cooperative.
On the same day, the solar cooperative is expected to begin evacuating power to the grid. “The farmers from this cooperative will begin evacuating power to the grid from Monday onwards. Their irrigation pumps have been connected to the grid and so when they are not irrigating their fields, the power produced by the solar panels can be evacuated and supplied to the grid. Together we expect them to sell 60,000 units of power and earn anywhere between Rs 2-2.5 lakh annually. This would mean a very good monthly supplementary income of about Rs 4,000 for these farmers whose monthly income ranges between Rs 6,000-7,000,” says Tushaar Shah, an Anand-based economist, water management expert and a senior fellow from Colombo-based IWMI (International Water Management Institute) who has been spearheading the project.
Earlier this week, this solar cooperative also inked a 25-year-long power purchase agreement with Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd under which the state discom will pay Rs 4.63 to every unit of solar power produced by the farmers of the solar cooperative.
The solar pumps can roughly generate about 40-45 units of power every day and can help reduce the burden on state discoms that sell subsidised power to farmers in Gujarat at an average of 56 paise per unit.