CHENNAI: In a bid to phase out free power and promote the use of renewable energy, the Tamil Nadu government is pushing for the adoption of solar pumps for agriculture, by offering 90% subsidy to the farmers. In the first phase, it has floated a tender for the supply of 1,000 pumps from manufacturers.
Tamil Nadu is a water stressed state and depends heavily on ground water for irrigation. The power consumption by agriculture sector is 20.2% with 20.62 lakh agricultural connections, data from the state’s energy department shows. About 4.3 lakh farmers are waiting for new free power connections, when only 40,000 connections (approximately) are given every year.
“The tender will be opened on December 18. The manufacturer should maintain the solar pumping system for 5 years,” officials at state’s Agricultural engineering Department (AED), the nodal agency for this scheme told TOI. The only condition for the farmer, who is on the waitlist with Tangedco, is that he should forfeit his application for free power connection.
An existing free power connection holder can also go solar, if he gives up the connection.
“They have to pay us a demand draft for the 10%, everything will be taken care by the Agriculture Engineering Department (AED),” officials said. The tender is for supply of pumps between 5HP and 10HP.
AED will issue work order to the company, which will take up the installation of the system. On completion of installation and satisfactory commissioning of the system which will be ascertained by joint inspection of the installed system by AED officials in the presence of farmers and company representative, the subsidy amount of 90% will be released to the companies by the AED.
Out of 90% subsidy, state share is 40%, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, government of India assistance is 20% and TANGEDCO share is 30%.
While the exact cost will be finalized when the tender opens on December 18, the indicative price for a 5 HP solar pump is 5 lakh. Knocking off the 90% subsidy will mean that the farmer has to pay 50,000 for the solar pump. And since it being renewable, there is no recurring cost.
Tangedco has a tatkal scheme for regular agriculture connections. A farmer has to pay Rs 2.5 lakh for a tatkal connection.
Tamil Nadu provides free power to the agriculture and the cost towards the subsidies works out to more than 3,000 crore a year.
This has led to heavy fiscal pressure on state energy utility and leads to poor investment in maintenance and infrastructure. Therefore, the power supplied to the farmers is often intermittent and of poor quality with heavy voltage fluctuations and supply is available only during night time for agriculture.
“Till date 2826 solar powered pumps have been installed to the farmers in the state at a total subsidy of Rs 101.40 crore,”officials said. Nearly 7000 hectares has been receiving irrigation by these solar pumps installed.
“We have seen these pumps work effectively in cold climatic conditions of Nilgris district too,” the official said. “Due to assured power for irrigation they were able to improve the cropping intensity and the irrigation intensity and this resulted in enhanced agricultural production,” officials said.