Renewable energy has been playing an important role in helping India pursue the net carbon zero goal. The nascent use of solar energy for agricultural activities has been prevalent since the inception of civilization. For power and energy requirements of agriculture, in particular, acute shortage of conventional sources has accelerated widespread interest in the scientific exploration of sources like solar energy. Solar power has boundless potential in tapping precious water resources, reducing dependency on the grid, and providing an alternative revenue source for farmers.
As the Indian economy enjoys a boost, rural India continues to be its prime mover contributing roughly 37 percent of the GDP. Agriculture being the primary occupation of rural households and a pillar of their socio-economic structure, rural India lags substantially due to its over-dependence on rainfall and under-developed power infrastructure in rural areas.
Opportunities For Solar In Rural India
One of the major challenges the country is facing is providing grid access to rural India. Expanding the span of micro-irrigation without grid access is a major challenge. Only 50% of cultivable land is irrigated. The other half is still rain-fed, making it vulnerable to the vagaries of weather. Even in the irrigated part, over-dependence on flood irrigation leads to inefficiencies and water loss.
It is estimated that nearly 300 million people in India depend on archaic sources of energy like kerosene, diesel, etc to fulfill their daily energy needs, requiring huge government subsidies along with substantial environmental hazards. Solar can potentially bridge this gap to improve the socio-economic situation.
The modular nature of solar power and last-mile applicability make it easier to tap the key facets of the rural population and positively impact productivity, safety, sanitation, and health.
Solar energy can easily help fulfill the energy requirement for driving micro-irrigation initiatives. This can not only facilitate water saving but can also allow for cultivation throughout the year providing impetus to agricultural activities. Off-grid solar pumping systems can be quite helpful to relieve the already burdened irrigation facilities in the country, thus providing reliable and sustainable energy at affordable costs.
While historically grid-tied and off-grid solar programs have been driven by government-aided programs; many small and large financial organizations have started backing green energy initiatives understanding the importance of such programs in driving economical indicators. Just replacing diesel-driven pumps, over their life can improve agricultural output and also decrease the subsidy load of approximately INR 84000 million.
Other Possible Application
Access to clean drinking water, which remains a big challenge in rural India, can also be made available to the rural population with the help of solar based pumping solutions.
Last but not the least, solar energy based enterprises are providing employment and entrepreneurial opportunity to rural youth. Owing to the simple nature of solar applications a large number of semi-skilled laborers in rural India can be employed for the installations of solar systems.