Pioneering solar cooperative boosts irrigation, income of Kheda village

Phodabhai Parmar, a 72-year-old farmer, sits on a charpai sipping tea as solar panels gleam in the fields behind him. Parmar is one of the six farmers who have formed the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative in Dhundi village in Gujarat’s Kheda district, about 90 km from Ahmedabad.
Solar irrigation system is an asset for villagers as they can sell excess power
Solar irrigation system is an asset for villagers as they can sell excess power


The Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE), which began operating in May 2016, not only made a switch from diesel to solar pumps but also adopted net metering – selling excess power to the local electricity utility. 
Members now have an incentive to save power and curtail their groundwater use, as any leftover power is sold to the the Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL), the local power utility, thereby creating a parallel revenue stream. 
Net metering 
SPICE signed a 25-year power purchase agreement to sell power to MGVCL at the rate of Rs 4.63/kWh (kilowatt-hour, a unit of energy). With six solar pumps and a total capacity of 56.4 kWp (kilowatt peak, which stands for peak power and is the output achieved by a solar module under full solar radiation), the irrigation systems in Dhundi are expected to generate 85,000 kWh/year of solar energy, according to the paper published by IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program, which initiated and partly funded SPICE. The pump owners will use 40,000 kWh/ year for irrigation, and sell the remaining 45,000 kWh/ year to the grid, earning Rs 3,00,000/year. By December 2016, the six members had together earned more than Rs 1,60,000 from sale of surplus energy to MGVCL.
“The selling of power to the grid attaches an opportunity cost to the power that is being generated by the solar pumps, which otherwise would be free power,” Neha Durga, a consultant with IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program, said. “So even if farmers use the pumps for 100 days of the year for irrigation, for the other 200 days the grid is getting green power. At the same time the farmers now have an incentive to economise on their energy as well as water use.” 
“A solar pump is viewed in Dhundi not only as an irrigation asset but also an income-generating asset that has potential to deliver ‘climate-proof’, risk-free income stream,” the paper stated.

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