Will Solar Pumps replace Diesel Pumps in India
While Solar Panels in India gets all the attention and publicity, other solar products in India like solar lanterns, solar pumps and solar lights are showing sharp growth without subsidies. While India’s Government concentrate their promotion efforts on building of large solar power plants and farms built by utilities and big companies, the needs of small farmers and citizens remains largely ignored. Even when there is a subsidy for a solar product like a solar heater or a solar lantern, the cumbersome bureaucratic procedures means that they remain largely useless. If you really want to give it a try read our guide on how to get subsidy on a residential solar system in India.
A new startup Claro Energy is focusing on the solar pumps industry in India. They are looking to target the diesel based agricultural pumps being used by farmers in the power deficit states. Note electricity in India is mostly unreliable and erratic with 10-14 hours blackouts daily a common occurrence. Bad policies like providing free electricity to agriculture have bankrupted most transmission companies which had led to no electricity. Farmers in India have to rely mostly on diesel pumps for extracting ground water for their fields. While diesel is heavily subsidized by the government, the fuel costs are still quite high. According to a new report the payback period for a solar pump is just 4 years which implies a roughly 25% IRR. The only problem is that the high upfront cost of a solar pump which is too high for small farmers. The Government should put greater efforts in using solar pumps through subsidies and low interest loans. This will help in reducing oil subsidies and imports besides helping the environment as diesel fumes will be a thing of the past.
Bunty Singh is a large farmer in Bihar’s Gopalganj district. In the absence of reliable supply of electricity, he used to incur Rs 2.42 lakh a year on diesel because he had to depend on his diesel generator (DG) set and a 5-Hp pump to irrigate his 40 hectares of farmland.Last year, he bought a solar power solution for Rs 9.5 lakh and hopes to recover this cost in four years by saving on diesel expenses and maintenance of the DG set. Singh doesn’t mind the investment.The opportunity is huge. Many rural consumers don’t have access to reliable power, with states running big peak power deficits: Bihar (30.2 per cent), Maharashtra (27.3 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (26.4 per cent) and Punjab (20.5 per cent). Worse, many states curb supply to agriculture as they are not able to recover the cost of supply or are forced to supply power for free. As a result, farmers are forced to use diesel-fired pumps to irrigate their fields.
For irrigating one hectare, a farmer needs a 1-Hp pump and 2-KvA DG set, on which he would incur diesel expenses of Rs 41,000 a year if he runs it for 1,000 hours a year (five hours a day for 200 days a year). A solar system with the same pump and DG capacity will cost a farmer Rs 2.2 lakh, which he can recover in four years by saving on annual expenses of around Rs 41,000 on diesel.
Note like Claro Energy, there are a number of startups in the solar energy space which have already managed to garner success. Here are some of the companies:
1) Selco Solar Light Model (PV Technology)
Founded in 1995, SELCO is a for-profit social enterprise providing clean and sustainable energy solutions and services to rural unserved households and businesses in the lower- and middle-income groups. Most of these customers are either off-grid or connected to unreliable power source.
AuroRE is a community-owned social enterprise based near Pudducherry, which provides integrated solutions for new and renewable energy applications in rural and urban areas. Main areas of work of AuroRE are – solar PV pumping, solar lighting, solar water heating, solar cooking, biomass gasifiers, biogas and electric vehicles. It has facilitated the installation of over 1600 PV-powered water pumps, 8,700 domestic PV systems and about 6000 PV-powered lanterns.
3) Gadhia Solar
Gadhia Solar has installed about 50 solar steam cooking systems with different capacities – from 500 to 15,000 people – in temples, canteens, hostels, hospitals and even army establishments. The solar cooker at kitchen complex of Sri Sai Baba Sansthan in Shirdi is considered as the largest solar cooker in India. The system cooks food for about 30,000 devotees twice a day. The solar cooking system is designed, built and installed by Gujarat-based Gadhia Solar. It has partnered Germany’s Sceffler to source the technology for manufacturing solar concentrators.