The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) sees a huge potential for off-grid application of solar PV in the country as solar pumps for irrigation
could provide access to water to un-electrified and remote areas and enhance the crop yield for farmers. The efficacy of solar pumps is evidenced by the fact that the shortage of drinking water supply infrastructure in rural and inaccessible habitations was being addressed through the use of solar pumps.
This was said by Satyabrata Sahu, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, while addressing the FICCI conference on ‘Scaling up Solar Pumps Applications in India’. He also highlighted that the Ministry has so far deployed 15,000 solar water pumps to serve drinking water purposes in rural areas of the country.
On the issue of presence of fluoride and arsenic in drinking water, Sahu said that to make water free of fluoride and arsenic, NITI Aayog had provided Rs 1,000 crore for defluoridation. He said that solar pumps could be integrated with defluoridation technology to overcome the problem.
Santosh Vaidya, Joint Secretary, MNRE, said that awareness creation and scaling up was a major challenge as the consumer did not understand quality, technical standards or reliability. Therefore, there was a need to reach out to the consumer. He also underlined the need for creation of business models which should ensure long term support to the consumer. Besides, it was necessary to create a database of who is supplying the equipment and services with clear cut guidelines on procurement.
Dinesh Kumar Goyal, advisor to Solar Energy Corporation of India underscored the enormous market potential of solar pumps in replacing more than 18 million electric powered and 7 million diesel pump sets currently operating in the country. He also added that subsidies are crucial for the successful implementation of the solar water pumps programme and that it should be viewed as viability gap funding.
G Prasad, scientist at MNRE indicated that installation of solar pumps is a priority for the government’s off-grid solar programme to improve the productivity for farmers. The widespread use of solar pumps would bring costs down within the reach of framers and allow withdrawal of subsidies.
Speaking about the challenges in application of solar pumps, Prasad said that at present, solar pumps were being implemented in two modes – states and banks. However, only a handful of states were pro-actively working towards the target.
These included Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Thus, there was a need for all states to implement the programme at a fast pace to meet the set targets. Besides, the banks which were insisting on collaterals for loans were being advised to treat solar pumps as collateral. He also added that the Ministry may consider revising the guidelines next year to increase subsidy for solar pumps
used for community drinking water purposes.
V Saibaba, CEO – Solar Business & President – Strategic Business Development (Wind), Inox Wind said that the more than 70,000 solar pumps have so far been deployed in the country. Given the potential economic opportunity, there has been an influx of private players offering solar pumping alternatives. Application of solar pumps in remote areas which had no electricity would enable farmers to increase their yield. He added that for industry there was a great opportunity to scale up the application of solar pumps and bring down costs.
Ardeshir Contractor, MD & CEO, Kiran Energy said that solar pumps were being indigenously manufactured at a rapid pace. Over the years, in solar energy space prices have come down, efficiency has increased with enhanced reliability. Now we need to see how we can make it well in India.
Rita Roy Choudhury, Senior Director & Head – Environment, Climate Change, Renewable Energy & Water Division, FICCI, said that solar pumps have the potential to replace around 21 million electric and 7 million diesel powered pumps, thereby offering an environment friendly and financially sustainable solution to address energy-water-food nexus in India. FICCI has set up a committee on solar water pumps comprising industry leaders and experts to deliberate on and suggest solutions to address some of the barriers which hamper wider adoption of solar pumps, and highlight the significant opportunity both within the country and for export.