The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi has announced that it has conducted a study of districts that are extremely dependent on solar pumps and has come up with a range of recommendations, comprising making these units on-grid in water-scarce areas.
In the wake of the expanding role of solar power in irrigation, the CSE analysed the range and need of irrigation including the use of pumps, the possible impact on groundwater, and the economic benefits to the government and power companies if they switch to solar-powered water pumps.
The survey was carried out in neighboring Buldhana district, Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh and Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh.
“The on-grid pump deployment may be an alternative in the water-scarce regions with high farm distress as it can generate parallel income for farmers while disincentivizing them from over extracting water. The schemes should focus on on-grid pumps that can inject power but cannot draw from the grid to control groundwater extraction,” believed Pratha Jhawar, a resource person with CSE.
Mandvi Singh, another resource person who was part of the study, held the off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases — in areas where electricity supply is very poor and unlikely to reach in coming years, and where the water table is relatively high.
“The agricultural solar power pumps, in absence of any control over usage and alternative use, can pose a serious risk of groundwater depletion. The issue can become serious for areas like Marathwada,” said Singh, emphasizing that solar pumps offer clean energy but policy reforms were the need of the hour.
The CSE, in its report, has recommended that the government must encourage off-grid solar pumps for supplying electricity for household consumption and comprehensive economic development.
“A mini-grid system can be formed that could have solar pumps or small business acting as anchor load, which could further be connected to the grid,” believed the CSE experts.
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