Farmers look to the sun to power their IP sets

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SOLARMYSORE, June 26;Farmers, hit by frequent and unscheduled power cuts, are showing interest in alternative sources of energy to power their irrigation pumpsets (IP sets).

Despite their limitations, farmers here believe solar-powered IP sets can be used for at least four to five hours a day to draw groundwater without any interruptions and thus reduce their dependency on electricity.

Farmers in some parts of the State have installed solar-powered pumps.

To promote green energy among growers, a group of farmers, at a pre-budget meeting in Bangalore on Monday, urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to announce 75 per cent subsidy on solar-powered pumpsets. The State Budget is scheduled to be presented next month.

Many States, including Tamil Nadu, offer subsidy on solar-powered pumpsets.

22 lakh IP sets

President of the Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association Kurubur Shanthakumar, who attended the meeting, told The Hindu that 22 lakh irrigation pumpsets were being used by farmers in the State and each farmer spends nearly Rs. 2 lakh on installing a pump set. Also, the cost incurred on laying electricity lines for the IP sets, including installation of transformers and other works, was huge, he said.

However, one-time cost incurred on installing a solar-powered pump set was around Rs. 2.5 lakh. Besides saving electricity, the government could also save on the cost incurred on operations, he said.

“Farmers cannot expect uninterrupted power supply despite government promises; this has resulted in crops loss and slump in overall farm production. Our aim is to boost food production besides cutting down on power consumption and reducing dependency on electricity,” Mr. Shanthakumar said.

He said he had met farmers in Maharashtra who were using solar-powered pumpsets since many years. Even in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu farmers have switched over to renewable energy resources to pump groundwater. They had reduced electricity consumption, cut down energy costs to the government and achieved self-reliance, he said. He said 5 hp pumps could be operated on solar power and water could be drawn from a depth of 300 feet. In spite of certain limitations, it was a feasible option to switch over to solar-powered pumps.

Claiming that farmers were ready to contribute their share for installing solar-powered pumpsets if the government gave 75 per cent subsidy, he said alternative energy resources could also be explored for drip irrigation.

“At a time when farm production is slumping for reasons such as inadequate power supply, the government can take the first step by making allocation in the budget to take this concept forward. At least, we are assured of power from alternative energy resources for four to five hours [a day]. We can use electricity on days when solar power cannot be harnessed much,” he said.

Renewable energy resources were being accepted by farmers in the State, he said, and added that some growers in Belgaum district were using solar-powered pump set.

This needs to be expanded with government support, he said. In the perennially drought-prone Chamarajnagar district, there were about 25,000 IP sets. The number was more in Mysore district, he added.

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