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Viability of solar energy for tubewells

Out of more than one million irrigation tubewells in the country, about 650,000 run on diesel-operated engines and 350,000 on national electricity grid.

With worsening electricity crises and diesel cost, farmers need to find alternative cost-affective sources.

Solar energy is dependable, clean, cost effective and feasible. It is also an immediate solution for converting tubewells on sustainable basis and its payback is feasible. However, its initial costs are high which farmers cannot pay and need financial assistance for 20-25-year solar systems.

They need credit to buy the solar operated irrigation systems.

Selection of solar tube well systems requires technical awareness; the product can only be successful if the vendor, pump motor, solar panel and inverter/ controller and technical standards are strictly followed.

Farmers require credit to buy sustainable energy systems which they could pay back in five years. In Phase-1 of the programme, each of the top 10 banks should be given a target (refer to the Table 1). Credit should be provided for conversion of currently installed 500 tubewells to solar energy for three brackets of costs; namely Rs1 – Rs1.5 million, Rs1.5 – Rs2 million and Rs2 – Rs3 million, depending on the site specific requirements.

Per hour cost of running an average-sized tube well on electricity is Rs138, on diesel it is Rs173 and on solar energy it is Rs83. Farmers who have tube wells with less than 50 feet water table can save Rs131 per hour and Rs314,400 per year with solar tube wells against diesel cost. This amount is sufficient enough to pay back the installments.

Hopefully, after five years, the cost on irrigation would be minimal. Prices are subject to change depending on competition among vendors and system specifications. Total estimated financing for each bank would be about Rs5,100 million to 7,200 million which is a relatively minor amount.

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