Gujarat is poised to become the first state in the country to roll out a scheme where farmers can generate electricity using solar energy and sell the surplus to the electric grid.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani announced Suryashakti Kishan Yojana or SKY as it’s called as per which farmers, besides producing electricity for farm and irrigation purposes, can also sell surplus power to the state-owned power companies at Rs7 per unit for a period of seven years under this scheme.
The state government launched a pilot project for the scheme which aims to cover 33 districts by setting up 137 feeders, covering 12,400 farmers. The cost of the pilot project is estimated to be about Rs870 crore, according to a state government statement. To produce 1,42,000 horsepower of energy for irrigation through water pumps will require 177 megawatts of solar power generation in the pilot stage.
As per the new scheme, a farmer signing up for it will have to spend only 5 % amount of the total expenditure for installing the solar project (including solar panels and inverters).
The central and state governments would pay 60 % amount as a subsidy. While remaining 35% amount would be a loan to the farmer, interest on which would be paid by the state government. The duration for repayment of the loan amount has been fixed for seven years.
Farmers in Gujarat get about 8 hours of power supply for irrigation purpose and with the implementation of SKY, they can avail this for up to 12 hours.
The central government has been aggressively promoting clean and renewable energy initiatives with an ambitious target to install 100 gigawatts (GW) of energy capacity from solar power by 2022.
With over 300 sunny days and high solar radiation, coupled with low prices of solar panels, this new initiative by the Gujarat government offers a powerful clean energy solution to power irrigation pumps and connect them to the grid.
The extra electricity given to grid would be purchased at a rate of Rs7 per unit. Of this, Rs3.50 would be paid by Electricity Distribution Company and Rs3.50 per unit (maximum limit of 1,000 units every year) by the state government as a subsidy. Of this amount, after deducting the loan installment, the remaining money will be deposited directly into the bank account of the farmers.
It can benefit the state government financially as it will save a lot of expenditure that goes in providing subsidized power to the farmers. Currently, farmers in Gujarat pay about 50 paise per unit for using power for irrigation.
The present power demand of the state is about 14,000 MW and with some of the private companies unable to keep their commitment to supplying power due to a change of law by the Indonesian government from where they source coal, Gujarat government is forced to buy about 3,000 MW of costly power from other sources. If farmers in Gujarat start generating their own power as in this case, the state government will not have to look for other sources, said a second government official in the know of the development.
A solar project developer who has been shortlisted by the state government for supplying panels and inverters for SKY is hopeful that more farmers would join the project once it is rolled out across the state.