Tamil Nadu

Farmers see merit in going with the flow

Farmers are dependent on electricity to drive their pumpsets. File

Farmers are dependent on electricity to drive their pumpsets. File   | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

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Tired of waiting for conventional free connections, ryots are increasingly opting for solar pumpsets

In 2006, P. Anandan, an agriculturist of Valathur village near Kancheepuram town, applied for an electricity connection under the conventional free power supply scheme. Ten years later, when local officials briefed him about the solar-powered pumpset scheme with 80% subsidy, the farmer had no hesitation in applying, as he had grown tired of the almost interminable wait.

Mr. Anandan is happy with the choice that he had made. “For the last two years, I have been using a solar-powered pumpset of 10 horsepower (HP) capacity without any hitch. It is a boon,” he says. Mr. Anandan, who raises a host of crops on seven acres, says that ordinarily, the pumpset functions between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

R. Premkumar of Tiruttani taluk of Tiruvallur district also chose to avail himself of the scheme in 2016. He knew well that under the conventional scheme, he would have to wait for 10-15 years to get a connection. Like the Valathur farmer, Mr. Premkumar too does not have any issue with the solar pumpset.

When both Mr. Anandan and Mr. Premkumar got the pumpsets, they paid ₹1.64 lakh and ₹ 1.3 lakh towards their contribution, with the subsidy component at 80%. However, since last year, the subsidy has gone up to 90%. “Six months ago, I was given a solar pump set of 5 HP. I paid ₹93,000 towards my share,” says A. Radhakrishnan who hails from Adangunam in Vikravandi taluk of Villupuram district.

During 2013-14 and 2016-17, when the subsidy component was at 80%, 2,826 solar pumpsets were installed at a subsidy of ₹ 101.4 crore. As many as 7,065 hectares of farmland are getting water, thanks to the solar-powered pump sets, whose total capacity is 14 megawatt (MW). These pumps save 1.7 crore units of electrical energy annually. In monetary terms, this translates to ₹12.6 crore, if one were to go by the 2017-18 average cost of supply of ₹7.4 per unit.

As was done last year, the government has sanctioned 1,000 pumpsets for the current year. Under the allocation for 2017-18, the installation has been completed for 450 pumpsets and the remaining 550 will be covered in a few months, according to a senior official of the Agricultural Engineering department which implements the scheme.

Asked why there is greater acceptance for these pumpsets now, even though a similar scheme was in operation even 20 years ago, the official cites the reduction in the cost of solar photovoltaic modules. “Five to six years ago, the cost of a PV module was ₹100 per watt peak (Wp). Last year, it was ₹32 per Wp,” she says. Today, a 5-HP pumpset costs ₹3.5 lakh; a 7.5 HP set ₹5.5 lakh and a 10 HP pumpset, ₹6.7 lakh. Besides, the government’s scheme comes with a five-year comprehensive maintenance contract along with free insurance cover for the same period.

Govt. sets rider

During 2017-18, the State government decided to increase its share of subsidy to 40% of each solar pumpset. While each beneficiary would have to bear 10% of the unit cost, the contributions from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) have been kept at 20% and 30%.

Though the Union Ministry provides subsidy only for pumpsets of 5 HP, the State government has enlarged the scope of the scheme to cover 7.5 HP and 10 HP pumpsets too.

Even though the scheme does not help much in bringing down the number of applicants for agricultural power supply (accounting for over four lakhs), the message sent out by the government – promotion of green energy – is of greater significance, explains a Tangedco official.

Notwithstanding the utility of the scheme, farmers’ leader P.R. Pandian says there is one feature of the scheme that is disconcerting: the stipulation imposed by the State government that those opting for the solar-powered pumpsets should withdraw their applications for the conventional scheme. “The government should reconsider its position,” Mr. Pandian says.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:06:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/farmers-see-merit-in-going-with-the-flow/article24250493.ece

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