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Now,Bihar’s parched earth may look up to Sun for water

Successful installation of a solar pumpset in Nitish Kumar’s village shows way to farmers to look for cost-effective irrigation

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
April 27, 2012 2:54:25 am

For a change,farmers in Bihar may well look up to the Sun now than cloud.

Awadhesh Kumar,a resident of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s native village Kalyan Bigaha under Nalanda,had a different kind of irrigation experience this month,with his fields experiencing the functioning of a solar photo voltaic pumpset.

The experiment was meant to give a message to the state government that has been grappling with acute power shortage and hence cannot offer adequate electricity for irrigation. The state generates only 200 MW power and needs 2500 MW during peak hours.

Awadhesh Kumar,who got the first solar PV pumpset in Bihar,wondered along with sundry village farmers how a solar pump,devised by a retired Army officer,does not need a battery to power it. What a farmer needs to do is to press a switch on the solar panel and see water being pumped out to fields from an open well and a borewell.

Solar panels — 240 (4×60) watts — are mounted on a frame. It has a submersible ½HP pump that can lift water from an open 25-metre deep well or a four-inch-deep borewell. Solar panels produce DC electricity to drive the pump. The capacity and number of panels depend on the desired voltage and power. Greenpeace India,an NGO that works for renewable energy solutions,has offered the solar pumpset to the Nalanda farmer.

Says Greenpeace India campaigner in Bihar Arpana Udupa: “Submersible pumps are connected directly to solar array using DC power produced by the panels. Though morning sun is good enough to drive the pump,it can achieve optimum efficacy when the sun is overhead. Ideally,a farmer can use it for eight hours in a day.”

The cost-effective solar pump,designed and devised by Colonel (retd) Vivek Mundkur,the founder of Atom Solar,is suited for drip irrigation. The innovator claims the pumpset can be best used for wheat,maize and vegetables,but not paddy as of now. The technology already being tried by Pune farmers has been successful in sub-Saharan African countries.

Gautam Kumar,a farmer in Kalyan Bigaha,says the solar pump seems to be effective. “We have to use it for sometime to know its efficacy and the load it can take. Low maintenance is the best part,with a farmer spending Rs 20,000 for irrigation of one acre land for three crops in a year.”

On April 12,Greenpeace displayed to Kalyan Bigaha villagers how the solar pump would work. Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency Director Manish Kumar was present too,representing the government.

Awadhesh feels satisfied and believes he can save a lot of money that he would otherwise had to spend on diesel pumpsets. If other farmers opt for it too,solar pumps may provide a solution to the drought-hit and power-starved farmers.

The agriculture and renewable energy departments have been closely monitoring the efficacy of the solar pump. With the government already embarking on a Rs 1.5-lakh-crore agriculture roadmap for the next decade,solar pump,according to officials,may fit in the scheme of things to offer subsidy to farmers.

Unreliability of monsoon rains due to climate change and poor supply of electricity are the main factors leading to crop failure in Bihar. Most landholdings are small and it is difficult for small farmers and tillers to pay for the expensive pumpsets run on diesel.

When Bihar recorded 14.08 per cent growth rate,its agriculture sector had recorded a dismal growth of 4 per cent only. This is where innovative techniques come into play. But the big question is how technically feasible is the product.

BREDA Director Manish Kumar says: “Our technical team has been preparing the report. On the face of it,we believe the pump needs some modelling to increase its efficacy. The Nalanda district administration has been monitoring it.”

Kumar says the technology is generic and it needs clearance from the energy ministry after taking into account all technical aspects. Asked if the government can consider its remodelled version,he says: “It is solely up to state government to take a call on technology inclusion.”

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