Water pumps run on solar energy are increasingly becoming popular among farmers in the remote corners of Rajasthan, where electricity supply is erratic.
The development aims to benefit both the farmers and the government in more ways than one. While the farmers will no longer have to depend on the erratic power supply, the discoms (power distribution companies) can also breathe easy as cases of power theft and non-payment of bills will automatically go down.
“Farmers are increasingly showing interest in installing solar pumps. The number of farmers who installed the pumps have risen nearly threefold this year as compared to last year despite reduction in subsidy,” horticulture department director V P Singh said.
They get a subsidy of 60% from the government, of which 30% comes from Union government and the rest is borne by the state government. The popularity of the solar power pumps shows that the government move to reduce subsidy from 66% to 60% failed to make a cut with the villagers.
The state government has installed 28,493 solar power pumps in Rajasthan in the last seven years. Of that 4,252 pumps have been installed in Bikaner, followed by 3,683 in Jaipur.
Solar pump is also cost effective. A 3hp (horsepower) diesel pump consumes 2.5 litres diesel in one hour and farmers run it for about eight hours. Officials said that farmers are also getting better prices for their produce. Earlier, they had to promise their harvest upfront to pay for the fuel, sometimes even agreeing to low prices for their crops.
One negative aspect, however, is tendency of farmers to waste water as the cost of pumping the water is free. Officials said that the government is promoting drip irrigation to curb wastage of water.
Solar water pumps come with a capacity of 1 to 5 hp and cost anything between Rs 1,00,000 and Rs5,00,000, including installation and maintenance for the first five years.
The state government has set a target of installing 10,000 solar pumps in 2017-18.