India has about 26 million groundwater pumps, which incur a combined cost of $6 billion to the farmer, annually (source). Yet only 44% of the total cultivable area can be brought under irrigation.When talking about irrigation in India, the first few things that come to mind are big dams, dependency on monsoon, canals, use of expensive pollutants like diesel. In truth, these sources of water for irrigation have remained dominant, since inception, for a country in which more than 50% of the population is dependent on agriculture for living. Agriculture contributes to 15% of India’s total GDP.
Lately though, India has emerged as one of the front runners in the implementation of solar energy. by using these irrigation facilities. For the rest, farmers are left staring at the rain gods for mercy. The continuous power outage, coupled with monsoon woes, added to the misery of Indian farming and has led to the rise of an energy substitute that doesn’t only reduce the dependency on conventional sources of energy (grid power, diesel generators) but also provides a clean and environment friendly solution in the long run. Solar water pumps offers various solutions.
Solar pumps run on the electricity generated by photo-voltaic panels or the radiated thermal energy which is collected from sunlight. Solar pumps are useful where grid power is unavailable, or of poor quality and unreliable. The solar pumping systems are widely used for agriculture and livestock, rural /tribal area water supply, forest, and host of other areas where electrification is a challenge. Industries and commercial buildings have also taken recourse to harnessing sun power in right earnest.
India, being a tropical country, receives an abundance of of strong sunlight – paving the way for massive potential in solar energy. Most mainland areas in India get almost 300 days when the sun shines brightly enough to produce up to 5000 kwh solar energy per year.The benefits of solar pumps are not only restricted to irrigation, though. They can offer a various range of applications that can make the users’ lives easier and bring us all a step closer in making India an energy sufficient nation.
Lower cost, bigger benefits :With decreasing prices of solar panels, solar pumps are becoming a more viable solution for farmers. Solar pumps not only lift groundwater from beneath the surface, the have also enabled upliftment of the lives of poor farmers and their families. Savings made from switching to solar water pumps from diesel based ones, can change a farmer’s lifestyle – enabling more crops throughout the year, better seeds, better equipment, healthier livelihoods.
The drinking water solution
Solar pumps are also combating the shortage of clean drinking water. Half of the health hazards faced by India are due unhygienic drinking water. Most of the available freshwater is found in the underground.The various strata of soil, sand, and gravel found underground filter out most disease-causing organisms and harmful chemicals as the water infiltrates through them. Drinking water supply can be met in water scarce areas, areas which face erratic power supply, areas which don’t have access to clean water, and areas which are frequently hit by calamities like drought. Solar pumps can ease access to clean underground drinking water, thus, cutting down the usage of conventional or polluting energy, and contributing towards a healthier nation.
Drip irrigation is an effective mechanism to deliver water directly to the roots, and allows introduction of such crops which would not have survived with a dependence on rainfall or erratic grid power. Solar powered pumps save hours of human labor and are immune to fuel shortage. Additionally, they can be used together in a direct-power system (no batteries) because the solar radiation (which governs pump speed) is also the main driver of evapotranspiration (how much water crops need). Thus, the pump works faster when it is sunny and the plants need more water, and vice-versa.
A Fogger is Machine that pressurizes the flow of water and generates water droplets to maintain humidity and a lower temperature in cow sheds, especially in the hot and dry summers of Northern India. These foggers can receive their water supply from solar pumps at a very low maintenance cost. If diesel were used to power these pumps then its emissions could have a dangerous effect on livestock. Solar powered foggers are safe to use with no carbon emission.
Pisciculture and Fisheries
In pisciculture, or fish farming, water is needed to be supplied from a height in order to supply the fish with much needed oxygen. If these water sources were run by grid power then a sudden power cut could hurt the fish stock by affecting their habitation. This is the worst nightmare for someone who is into fisheries and pisciculture or even aquaculture, where one simply can’t afford to lose livestocks to intense heat and fluctuating temperature. Recirculating the water in the system is much needed in aquaculture. In such cases, solar powered pumps provide a stable and predictable supply of water.
Solar pumps are not restricted to being just an irrigation asset. Although expensive, if a compatible battery inverter can be connected to solar panels, farmers can sell the extra electricity generated by the solar panels to their neighbors. Solar pumps can, thus, become risk-free income generating assets for farmers. This extra income can lead to a better lifestyle.
Easy installation, low maintenance, zero fuel cost, mobility options, a long life of 20-30 years – these are only some of the factors that have made solar pumps increasingly popular throughout the world. Even if solar pumps are being used for smaller operations, the benefits remain huge.They are not only helping to keep the environment clean but also uplifting lives.
Written By Priyanka
Edited By Anirban