Solar Pumps for Irrigation

solar magazine


Potential of solar pumps:

In India, 53% net-sown area is still rain-fed. Solar pumps hold potential to:

  • enhance irrigation access,
  • advance low-carbon agriculture,
  • reduce the burden of rising electricity subsidies,
  • improve the resilience of farmers against a changing climate


Efforts by different state govts – Case studies

  • Maharashtra is solarising its agricultural feeders through solar power plants at the substation level
  • Karnataka is promoting solar pumps for existing grid-connected farmers under a net-metering regime
  • This allows additional income generation by feeding back surplus energy into the grid


Status check:

  • Despite the diversity of approaches and significant govt subsidies, only ~1.4 lakh pumps deployed till date against a target of 1 million pumps by 2021


What can be done? (CEEW research suggests)

  • Target marginal farmers with smaller solar pumps,
    • particularly in areas with good groundwater development potential
  • Couple solar pump deployment with micro-irrigation and water harvesting interventions
    • at the farm and community levels
    • Where limited water availability is a challenge
  • focus on technology demonstration and deployment of solar pumps
    • in each block of the country
  • In regions with good penetration of electric pumps,
    • prefer feeder solarisation through competitive bidding over solarisation of individual pumps (to optimize costs)
    • as solarising individual grid-connected pumps is the costliest approach for the govt to expand irrigation cover
  • In regions with prevailing local water markets,
    • promote community-owned solar pumps (for competitive prices)
  • Encourage sharing of solar pumps among farmers
    • through farmer extension programmes
  • Provide interest-subsidy to farmers combined with reduced capital subsidy
    • to enable large-scale deployment of solar pumps in a shorter span of time
    • for covering great number of farmers


The way forward

  • The govt should continuously improve its support mechanisms on solar for irrigation
  • India must fully exploit this decentralised technology to achieve the dual national targets of 100 GW of solar and doubling farmers income by 2022