How India can add solar power at the farmer level and boost their income levels.
Solar energy is rapidly becoming an attractive option for farmers across India to increase their income levels and contribute to the nation’s economy. India has one of the world’s largest agricultural sectors, with farming accounting for over 16% of India’s GDP. However, farmers in India often struggle with low and uncertain incomes, making it difficult for them to make ends meet. By considering solar energy as a third crop, farmers can create a new source of income and contribute to India’s renewable energy goals.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj recently issued a concept note on making Panchayats self-sufficient through renewable energy, proposing business models that can be used to encourage farmers to adopt solar energy. These models include leasing land to solar energy developers, setting up farmer-owned solar power plants, and promoting community solar power plants. The concept note also requested stakeholders to suggest their views on taking it forward at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) level.
India can learn from the experiences of European countries that have successfully implemented Agri-PV systems. These systems involve installing solar panels on agricultural land to generate electricity while maintaining the land’s agricultural productivity. The Dynamic Agri-PV system over a Grenache Noir vineyard planted in 2001 in Piolenc, in southeastern France, is a good example. The system lowered irrigation needs and increased grape growth, resulting in a 20% increase in grape weight, a 13% increase in anthocyanin, and a 15% increase in acidity. The Nidoleres Estate, with 4.5 hectares of new vineyards planted in combination with Agri-PV installations, is another successful example.
In India, implementing Agri-PV systems can be a win-win for farmers and photovoltaic companies. Farmers can earn an additional income by leasing their land to solar companies, while the solar companies can benefit from the reduced land lease costs and the ability to generate clean energy while maintaining the land’s agricultural productivity. This can help in doubling the farmers’ income as suggested by Prof. Ashok Gulati.
Europe has been at the forefront of promoting and implementing agri solar power for the benefit of farmers. A great example of this is the Dynamic Agri-PV system over a Grenache Noir vineyard planted in 2001 in Piolenc, in southeastern France. The system combines solar panels mounted on a structure that is elevated above the vines, providing shade to the grapes while generating electricity. This innovative system has resulted in several benefits for the farmers, including:
- Lowered irrigation needs: The shade provided by the solar panels has reduced the amount of direct sunlight on the grapes, which has resulted in lower water requirements for the vines. This has helped to reduce the overall cost of irrigation and has made the process more sustainable.
- Increased grape growth: The shade provided by the solar panels has also resulted in increased grape growth. The grapes have grown larger, which has led to an increase in overall yield and improved quality of the grapes.
- Higher nutritional value: The shade provided by the solar panels has led to a 13% increase in anthocyanin, which is responsible for the color of the grapes. Additionally, there has been a 15% increase in acidity, which has resulted in a higher nutritional value of the grapes.
Another great example of agri solar power in Europe is the Nidoleres Estate in Spain. The estate has installed a 4.5-hectare Agri-PV installation that includes over 20,000 solar panels. The installation is designed to provide shade for the vines, which helps to reduce water requirements and improve the overall yield and quality of the grapes.
The Agrisolar project in Italy is another great example of the benefits of agri solar power. The project involves the installation of solar panels on farms, which provides farmers with a reliable source of electricity while also allowing them to sell excess energy back to the grid. This has helped to boost the income of farmers while also promoting the use of renewable energy.
Overall, the use of agri solar power has been a game-changer for farmers in Europe, helping them to increase their income levels while also contributing to the development of sustainable and renewable energy. India can learn a lot from the experiences of Europe and replicate similar models to help its farmers and boost the economy.