Topic : From Plate to Plough: In the shade of solar trees
Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Indian Economy
Recently, the minister of the state of agriculture admitted that current policies will fall short of the goal of doubling farmer’s income by 2022. In this context, the narrative of turning Annadata (farmer) into Urjadata (producer of solar power) as highlighted by Finance Minister in Budget 2019, can provide multidimensional benefits.
Annadata becoming the urjadata – This one policy has the potential to double farmers incomes within a year or two.Helping farmers produce solar energy can help realise the government’s target of doubling farmers’ incomes.
How this policy has the potential to double farmers incomes?
The policy has two models.
· Model 1:
o One, replace all pump-sets, especially diesel ones, with solar pumps.
o The excess power generated through solar panels can be purchased by state governments at a price that gives the farmer a good margin over his cost of producing solar power.
· Model 2:
o Second, encourage farmers to grow “solar trees” on their lands at a height of about 10-12 feet in a manner that enough sunlight keeps coming to plants below.
o Under this variant, the farmer can keep growing two irrigated crops as he has been doing,
o The power generated under the second variant is multiple times more than under the first variant, and therefore the income augmentation can also be several times more than under the first variant.
· The alternative model is to help farmers produce solar power on their lands, making annadata an urjadata.
- The economic calculations suggest that farmers can be given Rs one lakh/acre per annum as net income, with a six per cent increase every year for the next 25 years. This cans easily double their income.
- In one acre you can have 500 solar trees in such a manner that even tractors can move through those and farmers can keep growing their normal two crops.
- It does not impact their productivity as there is ample sunlight coming from the sides for photosynthesis.
- Farmer does not have to mobilise capital for solar panels. That is done by other businesses, who also make profit in the process.
- Solar energy is renewable and clean in nature and presents a better alternative over other methods of electricity production. However, the availability of land of installing solar panels on a large scale is often a hurdle in the progress of renewable energy.
- The Solar Tree is much like that of a real tree, where solar panels(act like leaves) connected through metal branches using sunlight to make energy.
- Solar trees need nearly 100 times less space to produce the same amount of electricity as a horizontal solar plant.
- As power consumption per hectare in Indian agriculture is still very low, this holds great promise for several poorer states.
- Mobilising enough capitalto install these Solar Trees remains one of the problems.
- The second pre-condition is that the state should be ready to do the power purchase agreement.
Global survey on this and found that it is being practised in many countries from Japan to China to Germany, and India is ripe for this. Given that power consumption per hectare in Indian agriculture is still very low, this holds great promise for several poorer states.
Discuss the role of solar energy in resolving the arduous challenge of supplying accessible and affordable energy to help alleviate poverty and meet energy demands that are necessary for economic growth. Also, highlight how solar trees can help to double farmers’ incomes within a year or two?