A proposal for installing 5,000 solar pumps for which 70% subsidy will be provided, according to the state’s first-ever ‘agriculture budget’ recently presented to the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu.

Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare M R K Panneerselvam, presenting the ‘agriculture budget,’ said that the power demand for ‘well irrigation’ was on the rise, and an effective way to address the demand was to use solar-powered pumps.

To facilitate the same, the Chief Minster’s Solar Powered Pump Sets Program will be implemented, under which 5,000 solar pumps up to 10 horsepower (HP) capacity with 70% subsidy will be installed, with provision for an off-grid, standalone solar-powered pumping system.

The program will have an outlay of ₹1.14 billion and utilize state and union government funds in 2021-22.

In his budget speech, the minister emphasized the importance of irrigation for profitable farming and declared that free electricity would be provided to 2.219 million electric motors used for farming.

The government would pay ₹20,000/pump per annum to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) on behalf of the farmers. The government will allocate ₹45.08 billion to the TNEB.

An extended subsidy of ₹10,000 will be given to buy new electric motor pumps or replace the old, inefficient electric motor pumps for groundwater irrigation.

The subsidy would be extended to 1,000 farmers who own less than three acres of land with an outlay of ₹10 million

In November 2020, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) passed an order setting a benchmark tariff of ₹2.28/kWh to set up 20,000 agricultural solar pumps under component-C of the KUSUM program.

The Commission also approved a ₹1/kWh incentive for farmers for exporting surplus energy back into the grid.

Tamil Nadu is not favoured by developers for the large-scale project development due to excessive power curtailment problems. The state’s DISCOM also had the highest backlog of overdue payments to power generators. The state is way behind meeting its renewable purchasing obligations. Integrating solar with agriculture is an innovative initiative that the state is exploring.

In January 2021, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) released a tender for 50 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, including a 10 MW agro-PV component in Tamil Nadu. Agro PV projects involve developing solar projects and cultivating crops on the same plot. The projects provide the added benefits of shielding plantations from harsh sunlight and controlling weed growth.

Reference: Mercom India