JAIPUR: A solar power scheme to generate income for farmers from their unfertile land was launched last week. The proposal floated on Saturday requesting applications for setting up plants with capacity ranging from 0.5 to 2 megawatt would also benefit the discoms, and fulfil a long-standing demand of small solar power developers.
As per the scheme under the Centre’s Kusum programme, the farmers who have no money to invest, they can also lease out the land to private developers and receive an annual income.
“This is part of the decentralized power generation strategy where the plants would be located within 5 km of a substation and the power can be fed into the grid with a minimal or no transmission loss,” said an official in Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation, which is driving the initiative.
The government has not finalized the rates at which it will be buying the power from the farmers or developers but source said it would be around Rs 3.14 per unit. The rate is higher compared to the lowest price of Rs 2.44 per units discovered through competitive bidding.
The official in the RRECL said that since power during the day time is not adequately available for rural customers, these plants will meet the shortfall.
He said there are other equally significant benefits. “Since the plants would be closer to the sub-station, the transmission losses would be negligent. Moreover, the small power developers who were unable to participate in the big projects will get work. As a result, it will create new employment opportunities for local people,” said the official who is not authorized to speak to media.
But Sunil Bansal, chairman, MSME panel of National Solar Energy Federation of India, said “ Kusum is the game changer for health of Rajasthan’s discoms as it will reduce losses substantially. The MSMEs and farmers of Rajasthan are looking to change their lives by investing in green energy and this will change their social life as they will be able to get day power.”
While the Centre has approved 325 MW under the scheme, the state government is planning to offer 500 MW which would translate into hundreds of projects.
The government does not need to invest heavily on infrastructure for decentralised power plants as the existing sub-stations can be used for feeding and distribution in the same area.
Kusum has other schemes where the farmers would get subsidies to put up solar pumps to irrigate their fields. But the scheme has run into controversy after small solar power developers were virtually made ineligible to participate through stringent bidding norms.